We had kind of an "open mike" session at the Tinderbox meet-up yesterday, no planned program and no one seemed to have any pressing application issues. The discussion opened on the weakness of "memory" and perhaps the role of note-taking in aiding it.

The discussion ranged here and there, touching on the value of email archives, photographs, and meta-data in terms of establishing context, but also as "digital smog," obscuring as much as it illuminates. We talked about how user interface metaphors influence both the recording of information and its reception. I believe Art was one of the participants who made a passing reference to ego or conceit in terms of "Who am I, that my thoughts should be deserving of so much archiving and curation?"

I liked that. I ask myself that question a lot. Yet here I am.

Most of the time, these days, in the back of my mind is this uneasy awareness that this is all for naught.

As we got to the end of the 90 minutes, I raised my hand to speak and tried to conclude the session by returning to our minds and the unreliability of memory. I expressed my frustration with the notion of "software engineering," that I regard it as something of a joke. You can engineer a bridge, a building, an electrical distribution project. The physics are reasonably well known, the constraints are understood, the purpose of the artifact is well defined. Software? Not so much.

At all.

Because, as we'd been alluding to or dancing around, the single biggest weakness is the human mind, which is not well understood. And all our "tools for thought," end up leaving us chasing our tails. What's the ideal workflow? What's the best configuration of emacs? How should I best represent my knowledge graph? It's all yak-shaving and navel-gazing.

We don't even know, or can't agree, on what knowledge is. Human beings are irrational. We have a vastly inflated sense of our cognitive abilities. Thinking is hard. If it was easy, everybody would do it. To the extent that we use our "rational faculties," we do so in service to our emotional states.

I often think about the people of Europe in the mid to latter '30s, the ones who could see what was coming, yet were powerless to do anything about it.

We describe that conflict as a "world war," the second of its kind. Yet it is perhaps more accurately described as a localized or regional, collapse of civilization. What made it not a general, worldwide collapse of civilization is that there were wide swaths of civilization with wealth and resources largely untouched by the collapse in Europe and the Pacific.

What is coming is truly global in scope. Climate change is merely one dimension of the overall failure.

All you can do is all you can do. Try to do your best, the rest isn't up to you. Try to be kind. Enjoy the moments, because those are all we ever really have. Moments to live.

Nobody gets out of here alive. Be present for them now.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:16 Sunday, 3 September 2023