Went out for dinner and poker this evening instead of having people over. Discovered I'm not really all that in to poker. Not a bad game I suppose, but not really likely to aid in developing the aspects of myself that I want to improve.
Spent most of the evening "out" (i.e. with no chips), so had quite a bit of time to consider what to do with my life. I can't keep wasting time on programming so trivial that it stultifies the mind. Honestly, of even the most involved programming tasks I can think of, there are only a few that really seem like they will make the world a better place in any noticable way:
The model-based predictive perception system; computer models its view of the world and then uses that model to filter out that which is expected in order to efficiently react to that which is unexpected, on unexpected inputs, revises the model based on the previous percepts. Others are working on this, though. Sure, I might "solve it", but the basic idea is already there, so it's all just details.
Interactive refining conversational library (domain specific), effectively a limited visual form of the previous item. A user's (verbal, gestural) input is the only perception, computer attempts to match the user's model. Start with simple physical structures, then move to, e.g. computer programs. An exercise primarily in typology and parameterisation (as well as linguistic processing) with some of the refining model-based stuff. Again, being developed by lots of people, I'd be another person piling on the train.
Immune systems for computers; again, under heavy development by various groups, most of the interesting ideas have already been explored. Could I provide some insight? Possibly, but they'll get there without it, there's plenty of bright people working on it already.
Build a better >insert tool here<; sure, there's lots of tools I could fix, lots of projects I could work on, but again, there's a glut of people with simple programming skills.
There's dozens of little programming projects I'd likely while my time away on were I to take another sabatical, but what keeps coming back to slap me in the face is that programming isn't the best thing I can offer the world. Obviously it's not poetry, or artistic skill either.
(And before anyone points it out, yes, I realise that the personality test earlier has coloured my thoughts this evening) I'm good at taking complex phenomena and boiling them down. I'm good at leading people. I love teaching. I love learning. It really seems that I should be solving problems for people. It seems like I should be talking with people all day, rather than sitting alone in my room for weeks on end. It seems like I should be spending my life in communication and sharing ideas to try to move us forward as a people, not writing CGI scripts to interface with someone's SOAP API (or OpenGL library wrappers, or 3D renderers for that matter).
Probably this is all 4:00 fatigue talking. Maybe it's just the pain in my hands making the work seem less interesting. I should just go to bed so I'll at least be somewhat awake at grams place. Could very well be I'll wake up with a fresh zest and enthusiasm for making little steps that have a real and immediate benefit for a concrete customer. I've liked that in the past. I've enjoyed the crafting of the beautiful, small thing, so this must all just be a fit brought on by a bit of undigested personality test or a spot of gravy.
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