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My former business partner is in the boat you describe. He learns the bare minimum needed to do the task at hand and seems pleased with that. He still has the joy of discovery, but it's more about what he can do with the tech than any appreciation of the formalism. He's happily working as an indie game coder, and while he doesn't exactly have FU money, he's for the most part cleared the first milestone of making rent for the past few years.

I'm in the opposite boat. I've learned so much about the theory of computing that I almost can't program anymore because most of what we do today feels like a waste of time to me. It's all convention and application now, with so many barriers to entry that I feel like 95% of what I do on any given day is setup. The dreams I had for how computing might evolve and lead us to the endgame of AGI feel more distant to me now than ever before. It will likely happen through the biggest players, using whatever proprietary tech they come up with, and leave garage hackers in the dust. I don't have a good feeling about whatever artificial agents arise from that.

So there is a lot of survivor bias in programming today. I feel like Obi-Wan Kenobi, beat down by the industry, marooned on some distant planet. Meanwhile the youth subscribe to empire quickly, because all they see is glorious rewards. Seeing haggard old graybeards like me fall from such early potential makes them rightfully skeptical of the gatekeeping you describe, the adherence to the old religion of computer science.

Or I'm just full of it. I don't even know anymore. I wish I was part of something bigger again.

Its a strange field that doesn't have clear boundaries and constantly changes.

I keep getting back in my thoughts to an old carpenter who was making a truly wonderful kitchen in a strange corner of an old building. Non of the walls, ceiling or floor around it were straight and it had tons of weird niches. I ask him how he could attack such a problem with such confidence. I would have to spend days pulling my hairs just making a drawing. He said, carpentry is roughly 300 methods of which you only need 120 to 140 to do any job. The rest is just tricks that you don't really need but they are impressive to those who know the problem.

I keep thinking of that in programing context for some reason. Nowadays you just order a plug and play kitchen that fits exactly, a novice can ikea it into place, everything works and it looks fantastic. Programming will get there one day. Until it does it will just look really weird to the old carpenter. So you grind the wood down to Particle board, you glue plastic on it that looks like wood then it gets moist and you replace the entire kitchen? .....!

Yup. I feels you.

A few years into my dev career, I adapted to make maintainable stuff. Because I learned that in 6 months I'd have to fix my own bugs.

Now it seems most code is throwaway, one-off, write only.

I haven't been able to "let it go". I still obsess over making my code correct. No one else seems to care. They get rewarded for fixing their own bugs ("velocity!") which I mostly avoid. So my KPIs look terrible by comparison.

Things get better. Or, they did for me when I retired earlier this year :-)

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