Fire and Motion

post by rwallace · 2009-04-29T16:06:11.967Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 3 comments

Related to: Extreme Rationality: It's Not That Great

On the recent topics of "rationality is all very well but how do we translate understanding into winning?" and "isn't akrasia the most common limiting factor?", one of the best (non-recent) articles on practical rationality that I've come across is:

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000339.html

Interestingly, it uses a different kind of martial art as a metaphor. I conjecture it to be the sort of metaphor that just works well for humans.

(Most of Spolsky's posts are good reading even if you're not a programmer. I'm not in the New York real estate market but I still enjoyed his posts on that topic. He's just that good a writer.)

3 comments

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comment by MrHen · 2009-04-29T18:34:31.692Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A summary since there wasn't one in the topic:

"Fire and Motion" shortly discusses the habit of only getting 2-3 hours of coding done in a typical day and self-analysis points to a problem between wanting to "get started" and actually getting started. Once the getting started has happened it is easy to keep momentum and keep working. The 2-3 productive hours of a workday are at the end because one productivity starts it keeps moving. The concept of Fire and Motion is the strategy that once you are in motion, don't stop. The analogies from war and software are pretty interesting. I must have missed the martial arts metaphor.

In response to the article, I found no helpful advice in fighting akrasia. The very last sentence of the article says this:

We just have to come in every morning and somehow, launch the editor.

The somehow is not in the article. The article is about what happens after the somehow. In other words, if you manage to defeat akrasia you are probably okay until you stop working. If you stop, akrasia sets in again. So... the takeaway seems to be make the most out of whenever you somehow overcome akrasia.

(Note) "Akrasia" is a newish term for me; if I use it incorrectly please correct me.

comment by rwallace · 2009-04-30T12:31:23.481Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

War is what I was referring to by "different kind of martial art" - consider the etymology of the word "martial", and remember it's not just the mysterious East that has a long tradition thereof :-)

Indeed the article doesn't explain how to get started in the first place - I know of no comprehensive theory of that, but would be very interested in one.

But it does discuss a range of scales beyond the personal and daily one. How often do people say "I'll take a year off college to tour Europe" or "I'll (start a company / raise a family / whatever it is the person really wants to do) - but I'll get an MBA first"? I think "fire and motion" throws decisions like that in a new light.

comment by MrHen · 2009-04-30T12:54:44.693Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, okay. I think the article's comments on the software industry were pretty interesting, too.