Heinrich Hartmann opinion consulting about

Impulse And Intent


Written on 2018-01-10 in Stemwede, Germany

I have spent a lot of time thinking about impulse control over the last days. More and more reports are coming out which are highlighting the malicious effects that the millennial media diet (smart-phones, social-media, email, slack) brings with it. The internet runs on advertisements, and entirely relies on selling our attention. Even in the real world, every surface in public space that the eye might rest on is covered with ads, or even screens nowadays!

The effects of this media-diet include sleep deprivation, low energy levels, lowered attention span, …. In short, it makes us worse.

How can we take back control?

It’s not easy. Quitting facebook is certainly a step forward.

Here are a few things that I have successfully experimented with in the last days:

  1. “Don’t use without intent” put stickers on your devices (source: …).
  2. Write down your intention before you start working on something with a device.

Write a Journal

Writing makes an exact man – Sir Francis Bacon

I believe in writing. While practicing mathematics, pen and paper are the only way to structure your mind. Editing text-editor does not give you the same expressiveness that pen and paper have. You can easily draw diagrams or sketches, and typeset complicated formulas. It’s way ahead of everything a word-processor can do.

I can only think clearly if I have pen and paper in front of me.

When moving into IT I had to surrender my paper for a code editor. Writing code with pen and paper is really tedious, and does not give you the same control than with math formulas.

I am not 100% sure, why this is, but I think a core problem is the implict state of the language. In mathematics you write $x=3$ and this equation will hold in the full context (proof, lemma, chapter) you are working. When programming the statement $x=3$ a memory cell is set to the value 3, the value might change in the next line (or before that if when you are dealing with concurrency – god prevent). In some sense declarations like $int x$, are more like mathematical statements, since they too will hold within their context (“scope”).

However for less technical tasks, the pen and paper are still very suited.

Print out Code

Reading code on the screen makes me nervous. It’s too much jumping around. Only 100 lines do fit into the screen. The screen glows. You have to sit at your desk. Personal annotations in code are not welcome. Don’t add comments that explain the language or just restarte what’s being done. Only add comments to clarify the intend, or structure the file.

I enjoy reading code. But when I do, I want to sit somewhere nice, witha coffee in my hand. And annot

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