the seed

I think that if you:

  1. Believe in the existence of other people, and that they are creatures who experience pleasure and pain just like you.
  2. Believe that you are no more worthy than anyone else.
  3. Feel bad if others feel bad.

that all other essential morality can be logically derived.

If you have this essential seed, and you are able to correct your behavior as you gain knowledge and experience in different kinds of relationships with people, you will grow into a good person in many different ways.

1 is kind of a bridge between emotion and reason.  It’s axiomatic, in that it’s something that must simply be accepted, but it’s easy to accept.  If you strongly feel 2 and 3, it’s definitely the safest choice.

As for 2 and 3, I suspect primary caregiver before the age of 5 is probably the most significant factor, followed by genetics.

If you don’t feel 2 and 3, then it’s logically acceptable to conclude that morality is silly.

If you feel 2 and 3, and still believe that morality is silly, then you have probably rationalized something you should not have, or simply haven’t thought things through all the way.

If you feel 2 and 3, then the realization that others often act immorally and get away with it really shouldn’t affect your morals at all.  You inherently do not, and can not, derive pleasure in winning something at the expense of others.

There are a few things in life that are inherently competitive, like getting a job, or fighting a war.  In times like those, you can still take comfort in doing so fairly, though you may take no pleasure in winning.

There are times and situations where people who do not follow 1-3 can be safely relied upon to do specific things: they have something to gain by doing so.  But they cannot be trusted for anything else.

Maybe the moral ground isn’t high or low ground, and maybe morality isn’t quite the right word for it then, either.  But it is certainly a different ground.

I feel it’s a beautiful ground.  Not of perfect people, but of people who strive to be perfect.  It’s permanently under siege, and it doesn’t seem to last forever, but it’s wonderful while it lasts.

Unexpected Consequences

“Would you leave your child alone with your pit bull?”

In addition to being the verbal equivalent of an incendiary grenade, such a question is a great starting point for exploring a whole host of problems stemming from living in a society that is willfully and proudly ignorant.

It turns out that, in this day and age, they’re probably better off with a mild-mannered pitbull they’ve grown up with, than cute, but increasingly-sketchy retrievers.  Things were better when wealthy individuals made a hobby of perfecting dog breeds for various purposes.

Tame creatures are kind of messed up to begin with, for reasons too complex to go into here.

This, however, begs the question: “Why are we leaving small children alone with animals?”

I used to watch Animal Planet a lot, and you’d often see the only child, or the distantly youngest child in a family,  lounging about with the family dog.  Their companion since they were born.  Maybe their only companion.  Maybe the only thing that touches them, or interacts with them.

And I smiled, because I love strange things.  And if there’s anything stranger than animals who’ve imprinted on humans, it’s humans imprinted on animals:


Of all creatures wild and wonderful, it’s intelligent furries that I love the most.

Mobile Hand Platform

Look at your hands in front of a mirror.  That’s some amazing hardware.

Fundamentally, we are a mobile hand platform, with a sophisticated sensor package mounted above and between the hand positioners.

How would you even go about programming a robot hand to reach into a pocket and grab your keys, while not grabbing or dislodging your wallet, and not scratching or spilling your smartphone?  You can do that without even thinking about it.

I think our hands are as amazing and wondrous as anything in the world.






one thing well

Focus is the only way to do something well.

If you can’t rely on society, you must be passably good at everything, and you will excel at nothing.

Law is a very poor, extremely expensive, and extremely inefficient substitute for trust.




startups and power structures

In this context, a power structure is a constraint through which work must flow, that is visible to management, that provides an objective measure of work completeness and/or quality.  It frequently, but not always, occurs at the boundaries of group responsibility.

It’s only when the work becomes both tedious and stressful, the power structures come in to play.

You won’t notice if your power structures are proper until it’s too late.

If you do not actively manage power structures, they will be managed by primal social forces, which are generally inimical, in the west in particular, to business interests.  Those primary social forces become more intense the more people are placed within a social domain.

Some observations:

  1. IT still exists as a discipline, and it cannot be treated with any less scrutiny than engineering in terms of recruiting.  Given the power held by IT, it should be an early, and core, company hire, and it should be someone with unshakable morals, and commitment to service.IT is still an engineering discipline, and creativity is critical for IT, despite what some might believe.  But if you have to choose, choose morals and humility over intellect for your core IT hires.
  2. I don’t like the word devOps.  But whatever you call your systems layer, it needs to be dealt with early, and have a power structure equal in stature to software development and IT.
  3. Software developers need to think for long periods of time without interruption, most of the time.  They are a particular kind of engineer, like IT, and like devOps.
  4. It probably makes the most sense to group people by speciality, unless you need to control a particular power structure by gating work at a group boundary.
  5. If you don’t control your organization, it will control you.  It’s all fun and games until the pressure is on, and the work isn’t fun any more.