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Hi. I'm a Unix Administrator, mathematics enthusiast, and amateur philosopher. This is where I rant about that which upsets me, laugh about that which amuses me, and jabber about that which holds my interest most: Unix.
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Shifting gears

Posted 04-26-2013 at 08:35 PM by rocket357
Updated 04-29-2013 at 12:14 PM by rocket357 (msp!)

I've hit that point in my career where I cannot hide behind a technical manual all day. I've hit that place where, regardless of where I go from here, I will hit layers 8 and 9 of the OSI model (if you don't know the joke, that's finances and politics, respectively).

Who drives finances and politics? Unlike the other layers, which are driven by physics, electronics, and computer logic, layers 8 and 9 are driven by humans. In my typical quest for understanding (and perhaps for the first time in my life) I asked the question "what makes people tick?"

Ouch. I can't imagine a more daunting task. Give a computer the same input 1700 times and it will reward you with consistency and accuracy. Give a human the same input 2 times and you'll get 2 different reactions! Understanding people isn't going to be like understanding computers. This is going to take work.

I started off asking other engineers in my company how they deal with the "human" layer, and I got some interesting answers. Many suggested I start by reading up on body language, and suggestions came for a few books on the topic. Others suggested taking classes on psychology, business, etc... I opted to buy a few books (like I tend to do), and I've read a decent bit on the topic now.

Incidentally, I find myself "reading" people now, and I tend to notice oddball stances or gestures that I would not have noticed before.

Seriously, this is some cool stuff. People are creatures of habit. People are evolved to accomplish survival goals, and if you pay close attention, you can pick up on subtle emotional reactions that people broadcast without knowing it. The survival instinct is running strong in people, even though we haven't really had to use it on a daily basis for perhaps hundreds of years.

Maybe understanding humans isn't such a daunting task afterall...maybe we're all just solid operating systems with crappy GUI's bolted on.

Doesn't seem like such a big task afterall...
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Total Comments 4


  1. Old Comment
    Give a human the same input two times results in two different reactions because the input conditions are never actually the same.

    We use our survival instincts every day. We just use them differently. I use survival instincts in my job because I get money from my job and the money gets me food and shelter.

    I like my GUI, but the operating system leaves a whole lot to be desired.
    Posted 04-29-2013 at 11:24 AM by vmccord vmccord is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Human state can never be the same as it was in any previous moment, this is true.

    The comment on survival skills is a critical bit of this thinking...sure, we use "survival skills" i.e. "must eat", "must find shelter", etc... but we as a society have evolved to the point that the real "teeth" of bad decision making is removed. If I quit my job, I can't afford to I go to a homeless shelter or start collecting unemployment. When our survival instincts were *truly* in use, consequences as such had much more "bite" to them. I can play a video game and steal a car...I might lose the video game if the cops catch me. Or I could go out and *really* steal a car and get involved in a car chase...consequences are a bit steeper then.

    As for the GUI, perhaps not the *view* of the GUI, so much as the *manner* of the GUI. I mean, looking at a screenshot of KDE4 might be quite alright...but actually using KDE4 is enraging to me. Likewise, looking at a picture of an individual person may be ok, but their mannerisms might not be. That's what I meant by "crappy GUI".

    The human "operating system" is constantly evolving as we age, experience new things, etc... If I accept bad source code and that gets compiled in, pretty soon I'll be compiling good code with a bad compiler. You have to be careful what you internalize =)
    Posted 04-29-2013 at 12:11 PM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    I know what you meant, but I couldn't resist the joke. My GUI is still pretty good. I will be nice and polite before the other person is nice and polite and even if the other person is not nice and polite I will still be nice and polite.

    My OS definitely has bad source code that's been compiled in. Luckily, it's confined to the middle-ware and not the GUI.
    Posted 04-30-2013 at 08:56 AM by vmccord vmccord is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Well played. =)
    Posted 04-30-2013 at 09:06 AM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline


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