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Our Imagined Fictions

Published 1/24/2018

Our imagination is a powerful thing that helps us create a story. In this episode, we'll dig into observations in our own daily life and the correlation between our imagination, thought patterns and how we can shift the way we observe our world around us.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode.

In 2018, Linode is joining forces with Developer Tea listeners by offering you $20 of credit - that's 4 months of FREE service on the 1GB tier - for free! Head over to https://spec.fm/linode and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Your imagination is powerful, but sometimes it can lead you in the wrong direction. This idea of creating a fiction for ourselves is incredibly powerful and unfortunately it can also be debilitating. That's what we're talking about in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers just like you find your career purpose so that you can do better work and have a positive influence on the people around you. That's the goal of the show and hopefully we do that in a variety of ways. Sometimes we do it by getting at these deeper issues, these deeper questions of what it means to be an effective human being. That seems really broad but it also is real. We have to look at, as we said on our last episode, we have to look at these problems that we face as developers. They're not software engineering problems. They're human problems. Almost all of the time what we learn in one area applies to another. If you're interested in that concept, go and listen to that previous episode, the one that we released on Monday. For today's episode, I want to discuss this idea of fiction and the idea of imagination and why it's so powerful, first of all, and secondly, how it can be kind of dangerous if we're not careful. I want to give you a moment to experience this for yourself. I want you to imagine that tonight, whenever you're listening to this episode or maybe tomorrow night, I want you to imagine some meal that you're going to have, whether you're going to cook it or order it in. I want you to imagine it in as clearly vivid detail as you can. What plate are you going to use? Are you going to eat out of the to-go container? Are you going to use plastic or are you going to use metal silverware? Will you have soda or are you going to have tea or water? Are you going to watch TV while you eat your dinner or are you going to sit on a porch or are you going to eat it on a train on your way home from work or something like that? Imagine in clear vivid detail. I want you to add to this. Add the smells that you're smelling. Add the sights that you're likely to see. The things that you're likely to hear. Even the feeling, the temperature of the room or maybe the texture of the couch that you're sitting on, all of these things you can imagine. It's kind of an amazing thing, our imagination. It allows us to create a story. Even if it never has happened before, you drawing conclusions about your previous experiences, maybe you're using previous experiences to create this vivid detailed imagination. I want you to imagine the process of that eating, how long is it going to take you? How often will you take a bite? What part of the meal is going to be your favorite? What memories will this experience evoke? What kinds of connections in your mind are you going to make? Well, it's the last time you ate this particular meal. What kinds of people do you associate with it? This is an amazing thing that you can do. It's truly incredible how vivid and how detailed we can be with our imagination. As it turns out, this weaving of a story, this is very similar to what a fiction author might do to create a story, maybe a book or a TV show or a movie or something. This fiction idea is supported by our powerful imagination. The crazy thing is our brains have a pretty hard time differentiating between our imagination and the real experience. That's how powerful imagination is. We actually have similar responses to just thinking about something as we do to actually doing that thing. There's a variety of examples of this. For example, you may have a mouth watering right now thinking about that meal that you're going to eat or you may have kind of a melancholy sense because you remember the last time you ate that meal was with a friend that moved away. There are things that you can do just using your imagination that change your tangible experience, that change the way that you're experiencing the world. It's easy to write this kind of stuff off into inspirational quote, guru world. We don't like to talk about imagination because it feels ethereal, it feels somewhat disconnected, difficult to control, maybe even unimportant as a developer, that idea of imagination. We allow other people to use their imaginations, but the thing is we have to use our imaginations. Our imagination is not an art brush. That's not what it is. Our imagination protects us at a core level. Being able to imagine is fundamentally being able to predict. Being able to predict something that's going to happen in the future. For you to imagine something is for you to create and construct all of the associated realities that would have to support that thing. As a secondary process, your brain can then judge that created imagination. You have this opportunity to judge it. In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, there's a discussion on this exact topic. I'm going to talk about it right after we talk about today's sponsor, Lynneau. Lynneau is a Linux service provider, but there are so much more than that. I'm really excited that they've decided to pair up with Developer Teabecause I love this idea of having Developer That are creating resources for other developers. That's what Lynneau is. They have a team of Developer That are even writing articles for you to learn more about your server and how to manage your server. They have APIs for you to spin up new nodes, for example, or scale up. There's tons of incredible resources that go beyond just having a server in the cloud. I want you to go and check it out, especially if you are a new developer and you're looking for resources. That's one group. The other group is if you're a managing developer and you're looking for high memory plans, Lynneau has excellent offerings in this area. Their plans start $5 a month, which gets you a gigabyte of RAM. They're going to give you $20 of credit just for being a Developer Tealistener. Head over to Respect.fm slash Lynneau and use the code Developer Tea 2018 at checkout. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode and thank you again to Lynneau for sponsoring today's episode. We're talking about this idea of imagination and creating this reality. This virtual reality is almost what it is. We imagine and we create this sense in our brains. We almost experience before we even have the opportunity to in real life experience what we're imagining. Our brains kind of simulate that experience beforehand. In thinking fast and slow, Daniel Coniman writes about this concept of thinking of a flying pig. When somebody presents this idea to you, flying pig, immediately your brain has to imagine this pig, animal, whatever size pig, for example, that you're accustomed to seeing when you hear the word pig and imagine it flying. Your brain kind of involuntarily does this. After the fact, you have the chance to observe that imagination and it very clearly is easily rejected. You've never seen a pig fly but because your brain doesn't really have a voice in whether or not it's going to imagine this, when somebody says pig flying, then your brain is going to automatically go through that process. You're not doing it cognitively, you're not doing it on purpose, but you're actually walking through that process whether you want to or not. Of course, the other kind of imagination is the one that I provided to you earlier. It's kind of meditative imagination where someone is prompting you to imagine things. The interesting part of what we did with that exercise is that you probably imagined parts and pieces of that puzzle that I didn't prompt you to imagine. It's almost impossible that you had the same exact imagined experience as someone else. In that moment, when you are creating intentionally creating an imagination even then in a controlled way, your imagination is going to be unique from another person's. You create this vision, you experience what is going to happen if this thing comes true. Your brain actually gives you that simulated feeling. What is it going to be like? By imagining this, because your brain can validate what it believes to be realistic in this imagination, by creating this imagined future and your brain validating it, you've now created a potential bias towards believing that that thing could come true. This is important because this can be used to our advantage. We can imagine ourselves becoming healthier and allowing our brains to validate the steps that it would take to become healthier. For example, we want to exercise more. We want to eat better food. We want to spend more time with our family and friends or whatever the thing is that we want to do. We can imagine those things and then our brains give us instructions on how to make that feasible. We interpolate between our current situation and whatever it would take to get to that imagined future. It can be used for good, but if we're not careful, our imaginations can be used certainly for bad and not in an aferious way, not in an intentionally bad way, but instead in an accidentally bad way. I'll give you a very simple example. You can use this information to come up with your own examples. One example of this is trying to decide what criteria or what kind of experience, what kind of person would it take to get a particular job. Immediately, we all have a different schema in our brains. We all have a different way of thinking about this particular subject. What are the minimum requirements? What kind of information, what kind of personality? It is the position of a person in terms of where do they live in relation to the place that they're working, what kind of things do they need to be familiar with. We even have things imagined that create bias like age. We have a lot of this predetermined imagined reality of what it would take to get a job as a developer. This can really become a problem for developers who are trying to get a job, right? For developers who they haven't gone into the industry yet, and everyone around them is propagating the ideas that you definitely need a degree to be a software developer. This is a common imagined reality. You definitely need to know x, y, and z about algorithm construction or you must have had experience of x years or more with language x, y, or z. This can become truly problematic because this idea of imposter syndrome when your imagined reality doesn't line up with your true reality, right? It doesn't line up with your actual experience, then you've created this imagined fiction of what a developer has. Because you don't match that imagined fiction, that disparity creates some sense of anxiety. This is a problem, and this is something that we have to be able to recognize that our imaginations are powerful, but they also come with responsibility. We need to be able to recognize when our imaginations are feeding us a true story or a story that has only part truth or if they're feeding us something altogether fiction. This is very important for developers. It's important for everyone to start beginning to get a grasp on this using imagination to your benefit, but also being certain that as you imagine things, you're not creating bias in the wrong directions. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Linode. Go and check out Linode if you are looking for high memory plans or if you're a brand new developer and anything in between truly. Linode has an offering that will fit your needs. Spectat FM slash Linode, they're going to give you $20 worth of credit if you use the code Developer Tea2018. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening. I highly encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. There's a ton of reasons to do so. Number one, it's free. So you really don't have anything to lose. Number two, you can unsubscribe anytime. So once again, you don't have anything to lose and you have so much to gain. If you only become 1% better because of this podcast, then isn't the 15 minutes or so that you spend listening to this two or three times a week. Isn't that worth your time? I'd suggest that you roll the dice on that. See if it helps you and if it doesn't, then feel free to unsubscribe, but you'll never know how it could have helped you unless you take that step. So thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.