A Short Stack Of Broadly Applicable Tools Of Astounding Longevity
I continue to flesh out my book in a discussion about discovering the timeless tools of technology to stay relevant and valuable in the face of a rapidly changing world, and to do it in a way that provides a lifetime of satisfaction, gratification, and economic product. Invest in yourself wisely and equip yourself with the skills to be of value in any situation.
Discovering and Mastering Timeless Tools of Tech for a Life of Self-Expression and Gratification.
By Michael Levin
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Okay, so continuing with the draft of that book. Let’s at least knock out the draft ASAP with continuity and consistency here. Knock it out for practice on what I hope to be one of the main preoccupations of the second half of my life, for life begins at fifty. By that time you’ve had enough experiences in life to have a thing or two to say, which might be of use to other people or at very least to help train the machines on the collective wisdom of humanity. But let me assure you, every word written here is of my own hand. This is increasingly novel and rare AI-free creative expression.
Okay, so what’s the big idea for the book? What is it I’m passionate about? What still has to be said that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. What is it that needs to be said as we advance into this uncertain and rapidly evolving future?
That’s clear enough. It’s the timeless tools of tech. It’s mastering these timeless tools of tech, staying relevant and valuable even as AI takes up more and more of our slack. It’s to be the source of original as-of-yet unlearned creativity and not part of the slack. It’s the ability to create patterns that both resonate with truth and are new and surprising. It’s a tall order, but it begins with writing, and the timeless tools thereof, which can be pivoted into coding and other forms of self-expression that result in satisfaction, gratification, economic product, and the forever expansion of your choices and options in life. And that’s not just from a money-sense. It’s from an internal capabilities sense. A readiness for any situation because your skills are just that broadly applicable.
I’ll have to get to the actual book outline, but it’s okay to do a few free-form articles or essays first to really flesh out the broad topics. Then I’ll go over the essays and form the outline. In the end, it’s about preserving that love of craftsmanship as applied to technology skills you can carry with you and improve upon for your entire life. Not losing your skills, no matter the churn in industry and the world. And ensuring the nature of those skills are always relevant, valuable, and satisfying and gratifying to practice.
Yup, it’s a tall order. The only constant in life is change. But with assured change being a given axiom of life, another fine axiom is to invest in things that you both find joy in and can help you, regardless. It helps when those things are internal skills because they can’t be taken away from you. No matter how turbulent or crazy life becomes, if you’ve made these decisions well, you will always have the means to feel good about yourself and be of value in society. You shouldn’t have to worry about what others thing, but this is in great part the payoff of having invested in yourself wisely.
Going out into the world, it was always between art and tech for me. I started in art because observing the world and drawing it was the most natural thing in the world to me. There was both the things I saw and then the characters and stories I would imagine. I found it thrilling to combine my observational skills with story-telling. Had I followed this passion directly, no doubt I would have ended up a comic book artist.
But over time, it was the tools of creation that started to capture my attention, until this led me to computers, which led me to losing my skills each time the platform and software changed. I got started before there was a Macintosh, and I followed the roller-coaster ride of hope and heartbreak of a kooky artistic computer that was the Amiga computer. The transition of my love of art to the love of tools for the creation of art took a big turn towards tech in my time on the Amiga computer. But it only served to illuminate the fundamental issue that has grown to become my passion.
Using the tools of self-expression, artistry and craft whether they are paintbrushes, musical instruments, woodworking tools or software on computers requires developing muscle memory. I find that it takes some time and practice using such tools, experimenting and practicing before becoming proficient enough that you stop thinking about the tools and can focus directly on the subject of what you’re doing. The experience opens up new possibilities in life, because you get a series of benefits:
- The satisfaction of getting into the zone or the flow state while creating
- The feeling of accomplishment and the end product when complete
- The appreciation by those who find value in the product or process
- The economic benefits of being able to trade that product or process
- The inexhaustible supply when this enters a virtuous feedback cycle
However, the volatile nature of the Amiga computer as a platform for art and technology caught me by surprise, broke my heart, and made me have to reset my beliefs. I went on a hunt for more timeless tools for expressing yourself creatively on the devices of information technology (aka computers), which brought me on a long, circuitous route through Adobe, Microsoft, and countless other platforms and products whose names are obscure footnotes, Macromedia Flash being a prime example.
As a sort of safe-haven, I shifted my focus from pure art to a more information tech and data-driven focus, becoming first a Webmaster back in the rise of the Web, and later a search engine optimizer (SEO), as that let me focus as the industry shifted from generalists to specialists. And everywhere I turned, this same problem pervaded. The very nature of the tools shifted and changed. When it came time to document it all, even the choice of writing platforms was plagued by this issue. Many paths led to the vi text-editor, or its more modern and popular rendition, vim. And increasingly now, NeoVim.
I resisted the vim path because of the strangeness of what it was proposing: writing in a text editor that didn’t even provide the mouse or touch-screen user interface to figure things out. But it was a path that ultimate provided what I was looking for: that timeless writing environment, providing focus and immunity from technology and platform churn. And once you get used to that, it doesn’t have to be Windows or a Mac underneath. It can be almost anything, and that anything can itself be timeless. And so begins discovering and mastering a very short stack of broadly applicable tools of astounding longevity.