Standing on the Shoulders of Understandable Giants

writing blog

published 2020-09-27 19:36

updated 2020-09-27 19:36

Many people admire modern software. The ease with which we can do incredible tasks is truly powerful; navigation, translation, taxes. Consumer technology has changed the way people operate. But it is a brittle tool. Trying to do anything outside of the scope of what was designed it falls apart. We cannot inspect it's workings, or configure personalizations to our own benefit. We do not get to build on top of the giants, simply pass through them in a very specific way.

There are those who refuse these terms entirely and opt to build their own tools. These craftspeople will forge the tools that fit their needs best. Building foundations at bedrock allows for the most control. Make the tools exactly as you need them. These people garner a deep respect from me.

I land somewhere in the middle.

A big development in my understanding of the craft was from the realization that I can just inspect open source code. After all that is the point. For a long time I was scared to peek behind the curtain, afraid that the runes would be illegible. But that was a silly fear. A big part of how I learn now is just looking at how other people solved a problem. Afterall the patterns are adaptable.

Being able to inspect and understand code doesn't have the same benefits as having built them entirely yourself. In exchange you are granted height, and as much control as you can muster. Can you master somebody else's spell enough to make it your own? I know the limits of my own power and so limiting the complexity is desirable.

No single person can understand the entirety of their toolchain. We must depend on each other in order to wield our artifacts at all. There's always another layer below 'bedrock'. The operating system underlies application space. The instruction set underlies the OS and BIOS. The silicon underlies the BIOS. The silicon must be extracted which requires additional industrial scale tools to shape and form.

Will you chisel away at the void, to craft the perfect tool? Or will bow to cosmic powers of the corpers you summon, happy enough be granted outcomes of incantions.

I will choose to stand of the shoulders of the giants I can understand. Those that I can also control.