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An Ode to The Uncompressibles (Linus, Guido, Ada & Grace)

I reflect on the power of originality and the importance of the 'uncompressibles' - Linus Torvalds and Guido van Rossum - who have created revolutionary ideas despite copying plenty. I explore the need to recognize and appreciate newness and uniqueness, and the potential of great ideas yet to be realized. I recognize the work of uncompressibles like Linus, Guido, Ada Lovelace, and Grace Hopper, and admire their contrast to the 'Alphas

Celebrating the Uncompressibles: Appreciating Originality and Great Ideas

By Michael Levin

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Okay, I feel like getting out one more blog post on MikeLevinSEO.com since it’s so darn easy these days, and as I pointed out just now on MikeLev.in, we are always channeling. It’s just a matter of whether we listen or not. And when we listen, it’s just a matter of whether we turn it into matter or not. That is to say, actualize, materialize, or whatever other high falutin’ word you want to stick on the information-to-matter and back-to-information process. That’s that middle part that is me typing into vim and hitting my keyboard shortcut that triggers my release system slicing & dicing my single-page journal.md files into highly optimized individual blog-post pages.

Well, maybe not as highly optimized as they need to be. Something like category or tag pages are in the future where I cluster blog-posts even more than I do today (by website). I need within-site clustering on sub-topics, but doing that right now violates the 80/20-rule. My thoughts are flowing. The posts are publishing. I’m firing on all cylinders, perhaps for the first time since my HitTail days. Remember HitTail? Fewer and fewer folks do, it was so long ago and the site has been turned off. Anyhow, that was 2006. It’s 2022. June to June will make 16 years. A decade-and-a-half. Ouch. Well, it’s finally time for my 2nd act, and it isn’t going to be any attempt at empire-building or anything again.

No, this time it’s just going to be practicing what I preach. Some very powerful, very influential sites coming gradually into existence. And by the time anyone realizes what’s going on, they’ll be providing an alternative income and solving any money-woes and lack-of-savings regrets that I may have in life. Just do what you do. Practice that Kung Fu that you do.

It’ll work, and I’ll tell you why. The uncompressible win… that is when they actually can reach the public in a relatable way. Newness and uniqueness is the most valuable thing in the world. That’s why the blockchain and now nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are such a big thing. The average public needs such assurances about uniqueness because they can’t identify it on its own. They need to be told something is a genuine original, because everybody is copying everybody else. Just look at the echo-chamber of the Twitter-sphere. My whole field of search engine optimization (SEO) is built from it.

There’s very little original thought anywhere anymore, at least not out in the published channels. And when it is, it’s hard to recognize as such. You have to be some sort of tour de force powerhouse of undeniable verifiable bona fidable originality to get through people’s “that can’t be new” filters. That can’t be original. Someone else must have done that first.

Well yeah. Someone else did something like that first. Me back in < 2006. And others in different ways both before and after me. But implementation counts. Nuance counts. Subtlety counts. Otherwise there would be no Linux. It would all be Unix. And Unix would still be UNIX from AT&T and only have very little of the world-changing significance that Linux had. Linux and the GNU licenses it’s based on insists on a sharing-back into the community, as LinkSys and TiVo very-much know.

LinkSys had to give up the code of the WRT router and TiVo caused a corporately corrupted version of the GNU license (gnu3) to be created just for it. But I digress. The point is that old ideas when new again can be new ideas like nobody’s ever encountered before. The light goes on and you have LAMP. The LAMPs go on and you have The Web. The Web goes on and you’re here reading this blog post. Unix didn’t do that. Linus Torvalds did.

Linus is one of the great uncompressibles, even though he copied plenty. Guido van Rossum is also one of the great uncompressibles even though he copied plenty too (from the ABC programming language developers / his bosses). Giants build on the shoulders of giants, releasing great pent-up potential because early implementations missed the mark in small but critically important ways that outside-the-box original thinkers, the uncompressibles can see.

And when I say uncompressibles, what I mean is that if you put 100% of humanity into the zip or rar compression algorithms, we’d pack down to about 20% of our size, likely. That is, the people who make big differences, contributions nobody else can or will make, they are the ones that aren’t just filtered out as white space. Linus and Guido are in that category. And it’s not all just dudes. Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper are in that category too, probably quite a bit more so because they didn’t copy other peoples’ work quite as much as the dudes. In fact, it’s the ladies that invented software… period

From Alpha to Omega, it’s the Alphas that copy. It’s the alpha’s that enter optimization contents, invent Olympics and otherwise compare performance. Alphas claim superiority because they need to in order to appease their egos, but they are highly dispensable and infinitely compressible.

Omega’s on the other hand invent. They are original thinkers, couldn’t care less about competitors, and optimizing their code is low on their priority list. They are also much more sensitive and volatile and likely to fail beause they’re doing new stuff and taking risks. Honestly, Linus and Guido live in a sort of vibrating edge between Alpha and Omega, which is also a nice place to be. They are highly compressible until they decide not to be. Then you have the walrus operator and some very hurt feelings.

Me? Not in league with any of the folks I mention. Not by a long shot. I don’t fold the steel that makes the swords. I pick up the sword and use it. I admire the craft, weigh it in my hands, then try doing what no others have done with it before. Can the sword be a paint-brush? Is there value in that? Can it improve my life and the lives of others I care about? Learn. Improve. Create a righteous feedback loop using the kinds of tools that Linus and Guido create in creative new ways, perchance to be an uncompressible myself, albeit of a much smaller order than the masters.