Hanging on the heels of genii

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To do anything today in the software development world you are building on over 100 plus years of silicon valley, worldwide computing and engineering genii. When you build your latest web app, you’re probably using a modern framework that was designed by a coding prodigy who adhered to the design methodology with unnerving precision. When building a REST API you're harnesses the HTTP protocol that lives on the top of a huge distributed computer system powered by CPU’s that adhere to an ISA(Instruction set architecture) that utilise the logic circuits patented by Nikola Tesla in the early 1900’s. You could be working on an new algorithm following in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace who created the first algorithm on the Analytical Engine in the 1800s. Furthermore that computer you're working on might not event exist if Robert Noyce had not created the first integrated circuit in 1958. So, without these incredible leaps forward we would probably still be knocking about in a cave trying to start a fire instead of living in a golden age of technology filled with opportunity.

Flowery writing and theatrics aside and without painting everyone with the same brush, I would like to put the focus on me. I would say rather than feel like I am ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, I feel more like I am hanging onto the heels of genii. On top of that I am not just hanging on, they have greased their heals up with Vaseline and I’m wearing woollen gloves trying to stop myself from falling into the abyss of development and programming hell.

We’re all the same, or are we?

You see, the people that created these system and tools are similar to me, they probably like similar things. Nice sunsets, llamas, infinity pools and cocktails. However, they are almost certainly brandishing more mental horsepower, focus and talent that I can muster on my best day. They are probably more prolific, super charming and can probably run a mile in under 5 minutes while having a meaningful conversation with Alexa and checking their todo list on Evernote.

You may be thinking ‘wow that is a bit negative, go easy on yourself!’. In contrast, I see it as being a realist about where my skill set probably lies in the grand scheme of things. I doubt I will be making an operating system or building a system that affects the world in a profound way. I expect I will leave important things like that to men akin to Sir Tim Beners lee who basically invented the modern internet. I am actually relatively happy with where I sit in the technology world. I feel like understanding my place frees me up to just get on with things in a pragmatic fashion. The things I want to actually achieve are relatively small. A few apps here and there, some websites and libraries and mostly levelling-up to a solid and dependable skill set that allows me to add value to myself and anyone who employs me.

Will I ever be the star programming player scoring virtual touchdowns using an augmented reality, artificial intelligence enhanced mobile app that you can also install on your desktop using electron using a Microsoft hololens that also mines Bitcoin using your kinetic energy? The answer is probably a resounding ‘I doubt it’. Could I be the reserve that gets pulled on in the 89th minute of the game and by a fluke get pushed into the ball which just co-incidentally happens to sneak in and win the game? Possibly, I would like to hope so, but even if that does not happen then I am pretty happy anyway. Being competent at something is a great way to feel good about yourself and I feel I am at the competent level.

Development and feeding your creativity

So, I have low expectations of what I plan to achieve and I hope to max out my technical potential in the next few years. After that what is left? Well for me development is just an extension of my desire to be creative, I love building or making things and developing allows me to do that. I love the fact that you don’t have materials strewn all over your apartment like you do if you’re a painter or a sculptor. Of course people wont swoon with desire when you show then your latest CRUD application like they would if you had just painted the Sistine chapel in one week. I can live with that. I do however love the fact that I can do my creative work anywhere I can sit down with my laptop.

To summarise, for me development is the perfect mix of technical and creative, it rarely forces you to suffer the kind of creative block you might encounter with music or illustration. So, for me hanging onto the heels of the greats that helped to build this industry is a pleasure. Maybe my next investment should be in some Stanford designed gecko gloves to help me hold on the heels for a little bit longer so I can enjoy the view from down here.