“I didn’t know that I couldn’t do it, so I did it.” -Robert Kiyosaki
Inertia is powerful. It’s extremely useful; it keeps things moving along well. Imagine if tomorrow, every single company and government ended and every single person was unemployed. How long would it take to reinstitute democracy, create jobs, recover computing power, and create the lives that we so enjoy? It would be an immense effort with lots of tragedy until things got worked out. Luckily, tomorrow, almost everyone will choose to behave the same way we behaved yesterday. Thus, governments, companies, and structures will remain. We’ll continue to produce, eat, and avoid tragedy.
However, inertia can keep us back in several ways. The large problem with inertia is that people’s imagination are either 1) limited to small deviations from the status quo or 2) so outlandish as to be unrealistic. In the second category, think Star Trek or end-of-the-world predictions. Examples from the first category are abundant, but here are a few. When the toilet was first created, people balked at the idea of putting an outhouse inside. When the refrigerator was first created, icebox makers exclaimed that no-one would ever want to deal with the noise of a compressor inside their home. In 1943, the president of IBM predicted that there would be a market for five computers in the world .
We have a special name for people that can predict what is just inside the realm of possibility and execute on that prediction: visionaries. We know the names of several: Steve Jobs (boy do I miss Steve Jobs), Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Paul Graham, Richard Branson. They are extremely valuable; they make existence significantly better. They are irreplaceable. In my profession, a rather successful visionair is Jonathan Blow.
Modern computers are astounding machines. And yet, the experience of using a computer today is extremely similar to what it was in past decades. A large part of this is due to inertia. Keeping backwards compatibility, programming today with the tricks required of the past to function well, and incorporating unwanted features keeps us from experiencing the amazing power of modern machines. A clear example of this is how long it takes to compile a program. On my 2012 Macbook Pro with four cores each operating at approximately 3 GHz (which is FAR faster than any computer in existence from the 1990s), it takes several seconds to compile my program consisting of approximately 1000 lines of code. When I program for an MRI machine, it takes approximately a minute to compile my code. That means, if I’m debugging, an upper bound on the amount of attempts I get in an hour is 60 just because of compilation. Jonathan Blow has created a new programming language with his own compiler that can compile a program with 54,000 lines of code (much more sophisticate than any of mine) in approximately half a second .
Achieving a half a second compilation time took more than just improving efficiency of current systems. A half a second is so far away from reality that it wasn’t a mere extension of modern techniques. Much of how he achieved this was by letting the computer be what it is; by letting the capabilities of the computer guide him. A half a second required an intelligent and capable being to break with inertia.
“Don’t just read it. Fight it!” -Paul Halmos
Already people are realizing the implications of the new capability. Without the language being released (and without a date of when it will be released), it is already creating second order effects. A new programming paradigm called Data Oriented Design is getting adopted to fully take advantage of this.
Like computers, our minds are much more powerful than we think. Our capabilities are limited largely by 1) a lack of desire to take advantage of them, 2) a lack of vision of our own capabilities, or 3) a lack of understanding of how to train them. How fast do you read? Now watch this:
That commercial clearly illustrates that we can read faster than we think. Notice how the commercial trains us? It doesn’t start out with the maximum speed. We might be inclined to look and think that speed is unintelligible. It starts at normal speed, then gets a little faster, then gets fastest. Then, it gives us a short break! And then proceeds until we surprise ourselves. The commercial takes about a minute to train us to read faster.
As I watch that commercial, I find myself letting the capabilities of my mind wash over me. I let my brain be what it is. I permit myself to become powerful and succeed.
I listen to books on Audible at 1.25 times the natural reading speed. This permits me to read a 10 hour book in 8 hours. But it turns out that I’ve been Listening slow! Many people are listening to books on audible at 2 times . That seems like a lot. It would require me to train to get the fast. And if you were to ask me what’s possible, I might limit my capabilities at 2x. Am I right?
Here is a picture of a computer programmer. Notice anything weird about his office and method of programming?
You might realize that he doesn’t have a monitor. Another clue is that his desk is very clean. This programmer is blind! He has many ways of coping with his lack of vision . One of his tricks is to listen to writings and code. And since listening is his bottleneck, he’s gotten very good at it. How good? Here’s an example of what he’s listening to:
He’s listening at 450 words per minute! He’s listening so fast that it has become a new language, where intonation and hesitations are indicative of information. He’s fast! And we are all capable of this.