2021 end of year ramblings

Another year of COVID-19 pandemic. Tragic, yes. Much of it preventable, yes (get vaccinated, please). But as the year closes, now is as good a time as any to reflect…

I was recently reminded of the “Why am I here?” question. It’s not as if it isn’t always staring us in the face. It is in fact central to being an adult human being. Mortality is real. But some have seen a lot of mortality this year.

Before I go to my main topic, I just want to say that my heart goes out to those who’ve endured day after day of preventable tragedies in 2021. Health care workers in particular. To those who’ve been pushed to questioning their hippocratic oath and other ethics: thank you, and stand strong. You are not alone; far from it. I’ll give you my hand if you’ll take it.

“Why am I here?”

For me, the simple answer: to build things. The complete answer is much more complex, but…

One day the remnants of humanity on this planet will just be a layer of remains. It’ll likely be a thin layer; we haven’t been here very long and I suspect our presence here will be shorter than the dinosaurs. However, we’ll leave behind an interesting layer.

Some of it utterly confounding in the grand scheme of things. Ungodly amounts of empty plastic containers. Megatons of polymer cases with silicon, glass, rare earth metals, etc. inside. Paper and more paper. An odd carbon transfer.

Some of it fascinating. Music in some form. Mathematics. Literature. Law. Medicine. Computing. Science in general. AI.

Some of it sad. Greed. Avarice. War. Poverty. Starvation. Exploitation. We’ve a long list of evils.

What do you want to leave behind? There’s a saying among software craftspeople, “Leave the code better than you found it.”. It’s attributed to Bob Martin. I’ve read a lot of Bob’s work, and listened to most of his publicly available talks. I’d be stunned if he claimed to have invented this idea. This idea predates software by… I don’t know, several millennia? It’s as old as the craftsperson, and is not specific to software. But it’s definitely a really good thing to do in software. Just as it is in plumbing, carpentry, medicine, law, etc.

I want to leave behind good, useful things that wouldn’t have existed without me. It’s weird. It feels humble and prideful at the same time.

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