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This is a long metaphor but work with me here...

There are many types of application programmers, but there are 2 types in particular that are interesting. One of them is the purely technology-driven developer. He uses all the new tools, he's read Knuth's books a hundred times, he knows how to build elegant systems. However, he only takes enough interest in the business as is necessary to know what to build. At the end of the day, he'll build the most elegant beautiful system that almost never accomplishes the business goal. He knows how to describe a problem, but he doesn't really know the problem.

The second likes programming, he finds technology fun, but he is really driven by trying to understand the full context of the business. Writing software is a means to see an impact on people. He's driven by seeing a business problem solved. I've only met 2 people in my career who are ACTUALLY like this, they're rare... which is maybe a good thing because they write shit code.

A good engineering team tries to get both of these guys, you have the tech guy making sure your platform is maintainable, and you have the business driven guy who makes sure it's useful. One guy understands the structure of the tool, the other understands the structure of the world the tool is in.

A language is a tool, it can be elegant, it can be beautiful, it can be technically perfect.. and just like poetry, it can have a very little practical utilitarian purpose. When I look at how we're using ANN's to develop language today, this is how it feels to me. We're spending so much time trying to figure out how to get a computer to build the most technically perfect sentence, we're missing the maybe more interesting problem of trying to get a computer to understand the world. My son right now isn't old enough to conjugate a sentence, but he understands what certain things in the world do. He clearly understands that cars move things, he understands you can use the hose to get things wet. He's not that old, but he's developing a mental model of the world. He just doesn't know how to describe it yet.

To me, having a computer look at a crane, and then print the word "crane" is interesting, but even more interesting is if you could give it 3 pictures (a crane, a building, and a pile of rubble) and teach it how 1+1=2.

Actually thes two parts do exist in tandem, it's just that those engineers/designers (a role you that can do the same) are usually independently successful and have repeatedly built high revenue products or started a company themselves.

The major flaw i see in manager/corp/team analysis of workers is that it misses out on a portion of the population that is genuinely independently functional and creates and shares the value they create. They don't work for companies because they either don't need to or own their own. These are the ideals worth keeping in mind.

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