Lessons from the book “Bitwise” by David Auerbach

Computers have been around for a while now. Over the years the number of applications and uses grew, and as a result also their impact. Computers as technology are ubiquitous today, but the intimidation of the average Joe towards it remains.

The book “Bitwise” is in some ways an antidote to this fear. The author not only explains the ins and outs of the world of software and computers in general to those who don’t have any technical background but also extracts the real-life lessons that can be learned from the day to day challenges of a software developer.

The deepest lesson from the book is implicit. Meaning that the stereotype that nothing can be learned from the experiences of “the nerd” is not true. There are quite a few deep life lessons to be learned from a field of work stereotypically frequented by those who are stereotyped as not being “street smart”.

1.If we feed our biases to computers that’s how they will work


The first lesson from the book is that contrary to popular belief, computers don’t have a will of their own. Yes, the field of artificial intelligence has made major progress over the past few years but machines that can think for themselves and dominate the planet are at least a few years away according to the most optimistic of the estimates, and a few decades if not centuries away from the most pessimistic.

So for now computers can’t be called “racist” or “prejudiced”. They are at the end of the day a function of the input of the programmer.

2.Retlaionships and software


If there is anything that most people would equate the least with relationships, that would be software. One lesson from the book is that even the software development process can have some similarities with the world of relationships. The author demonstrates that the bugs we often find in software have something in common with the problems we often face in relationships.

Bugs are present in almost all kinds of software. For the software developer, the fight to find and fix bugs is almost indefinite. For those who don’t know, a bug is a problem in the software almost always introduced by the programmer. The author compares this with relationship problems and he says: “Bugs never disappear if you haven’t fixed it’s a dead certainty the enigmatic bug will return “. Meaning that just as bugs in software don’t magically disappear so the same applies to relationship problems. Even if the problem takes years or decades to resurface, the truth is that it will resurface eventually.

3.Never attribute to programmer intent what can be adequately explained by uncomprehensible complexity

This is another profound software lesson that easily extends to life in general.

The field of software development has been and still is involved in mystery. For the outsider, a computer programmer is some sort of magician, and the implicit understanding is that this magician is unable to make mistakes. So when something seriously wrong happens with the software the impulse is to blame it on malice instead of the more likely explanation that programmers are human and they, like everybody else, make mistakes.

This point is adapted from the more general idea that goes as follows: “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”.

This is where this lesson applies to life in general. The idea is simple. Stop assuming that mistakes, when committed by other people, are more than just that. Mistakes.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉
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