The loneliness of advanced skills

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

I decided to re-read The departure of the hyper-enthusiasts. I’ve linked to that essay many times before. It was formative for me, at a formative moment for the Web, so it was formative in many ways, and it captured something important about that moment, and how things were changing.

I find myself getting nostalgic. That is not interesting in and of itself. To be nostalgic for a formative time, about a formative essay, is ordinary enough.

But I had an additional thought, which is perhaps less ordinary. It occurs to me that back then I was learning for the first time, discovering the world of computers and software, and I was pleased to find myself intellectually on the winning side. I was learning then, and to be on the winning side only meant to be on the side that was gaining momentum in 2005.

Nowadays, I am not on the winning side. And that is because my skills have grown greatly. I’ve been programming for 18 years now. I’ve gone through all the various stages of learning. I’ve made all the classic mistakes. I’ve fought for the new consensus enough times. I’ve praised the classics: Unix, Lisp, dynamic programming, Functional programming. But for better, and for worse, I’ve come to see the weakness in all of these things. I can imagine technologies much better than what we have now, but I am well outside of (if I was optimistic then I would write “ahead of”) the next consensus. It occurs to me, this is the loneliness of having advanced skills. You reach a point where you know the weakness of all existing technologies and so you start dreaming about the next generation of things. And so you end up a morose critic of everything that exists, and a sad dreamer about what might yet be.