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Your Present is Soon Your Past

Published 7/1/2020

In today's episode of Developer Tea, we're talking about the concept of time. We'll linger on the idea that moments have a timeline: future, present, and past. 

How do our moment timelines help us become better developers and coworkers? 


🙏 Today's Episode is Brought To you by: Command Line Heroes

Command Line Heroes is an original podcast from Red Hat about the people who transform technology from the command line up.

A new season releases on July 14th,  in which Author Clive Thompson joins host Saron Yitbarek to share his insights from over 200 interviews with coders for his latest book.

This 3-episode mini-season will cover: the many paths to a coding career, where coders work, and what coders expect from each other.

Head on over to the podcast platform of your choice to listen and subscribe for free to Command Line Heroes.


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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Your perspective is centered on now. You see everything as something that is either happening in this moment or something that will be categorized as the future or categorized as the past. But it's very hard to imagine that the now will soon be considered the past. But what's even harder to imagine is that the now was once the future. And that at some point in the past, you imagined the now. You imagined whatever was happening today and likely you imagined it differently. 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 the show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. So if you think about this for a second, there's a lot of insightful thoughts that can come from kind of lingering on this thought. The idea that your perspective, you can imagine that you have kind of like a camera. And the camera can look at time and they can see it in these three distinct formats. Into the future, into the now. We'll talk a little bit more about what that means in a second. And then into the past. And in both directions, into the future, and into the past, the further away it gets, the more fuzzy it seems to be. And at some point, it's completely incomprehensible. There's no picture that you can imagine at some point into the future that is even close to accurate. And even though we have some record of things that have happened in the past, even looking back on those things, there is some level of distortion that is inevitably going to happen because you are distanced from that event. This certainly happens as a result of us simply not existing. If we look far enough back into the past, we weren't alive. And so everything that we know of events that happened before we were alive are regurgitations. There are things that we learned that we believed from someone else. Perhaps we have evidence of those things actually occurring, but at the end of the day, those are not memories. There's not things that we actually experienced ourselves. Now, we'll leave it as an exercise to the listener to go and do some research on the faultiness of memory. Suffice it to say that memory is not an incredibly reliable mechanism. We can substitute memories, for example, things that we've heard from other people. We can imagine that we did them if we've heard them enough. And so our memories, even when we recall them, are changing. But nevertheless, this system of looking into the future, looking into the past is based on this somewhat faulty recording mechanism. But when we think about now, when we think about what's happening now, we like to exclude now from any of our critical thinking. So how does this happen exactly? Well, when we look into the future, we make plans. We think with intention about what we want to happen. Or even if we don't necessarily think about what we want to happen, we think about what is likely to happen. This is a fundamental human attribute to imagine the future and to play out different scenarios, even if only because of our own survival. We're doing this even involuntarily. Now, the more distant we go, once again, of course it gets fuzzy, but the further out we go, the more human those thoughts are. For example, we can imagine, unlike any other animal, what the world might be like when we are no longer here. Additionally, we can imagine what the world was like before we existed. But as we look into the future, we imagine and we create plans. We have intentions. We think critically about cause and effect. Similarly, we can look into the past and we can easily critique our previous actions. This idea that hindsight is 2020 shows us that we can easily look into the past with an eye of critique. Now, why is it that we can look into the future with an eye for planning? We can look into the past with an eye for critique. Well, part of the reason is because we are not experiencing either of those things. We're imagining them. And so when we think back, even though we were a part of that, maybe we did experience it. We're still having to imagine it. We're not imagining it in the same way that we might construct something that never happened. We're imagining what it was like when it did happen. When we imagine things, we put ourselves in a fairly low stakes environment. This means that we can be critical of our past selves because we're sitting here. Now, our opportunities of being better are abundant. If we think into the future, we can be overly optimistic rather than realistic. We can imagine that even though we've never stuck to a diet plan, that this is the year. And on the 1st of January, we're going to stick to it. More to the point of software engineering, we can imagine that even though we've never been able to estimate the amount of time necessary to complete a given sprint, suddenly, this sprint will be different. And we can do this because we're separated. We're not experiencing the sprint that's in front of us. We're imagining it. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then we're going to come back and talk about a little thought experiment that we can do to get us to think about the present a little bit differently. Command Line Heroes is an original podcast from Red Hat about the people who transformed technology from the command line up. Command Line Heroes returns for an all-new season on July 14th to explore the job of being a coder. Author Clive Thompson joins host Saron Yabarak to share his insights with her from over 200 interviews with coders for his latest book. This three episode many season will cover the many paths to a coding career where coders work and what coders expect from each other. Past seasons have ranged from the history of open source to the origins of popular programming languages and most recently the creation of revolutionary hardware. Head on over to the podcast platform of your choice to listen and subscribe to Command Line Heroes. Our perception is locked in the present. And in fact, all of the experiences that we have with the past or the future are also experienced in the present. And so it's easy to categorize the events of the present our current behaviors as something different because it is. But here's what's important to understand. All of our intentions, all of our plans, everything that we are hoping to do in the future has to be experienced in that ongoing sense of present. And everything that we have done in the past was experienced in that ongoing sense of present. And here's why that's important. Where you are in today's present is largely the result of your intentions in previous moments of presence. Think about that for a second. We often don't imagine that the actions that we're taking today are actually reactions to our previous experiences. The habits we have today didn't come from nowhere. The behaviors that we display today, the knowledge that we have today, none of it is our starting point. It seems like we are starting from today. And many ways we are because there's nothing we can do about the past. But in other ways, much of what we experience today is purely the result of something that happened before. And if we can think about it this way, then perhaps we can imagine that our present is just like any other moment. And that when we had our intentions before to be something different today, that there's nothing to keep us from having those same intentions and having the same outcome. This is critical to understand for very practical reasons. If you continue trying the same inputs, you're very unlikely to get new outputs. So the thought experiment here is very simple. Imagine that today was actually something that happened in the past. Try to imagine that your behaviors that you are engaging in right now, that they happened three months ago. Now what would you say about those behaviors? How would you hope to change in the future? Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Command Line Heroes. Head on over to the podcast platform of your choice to listen and subscribe to Command Line Heroes, the three episode mini season, which starts on July 14th. I do want to provide a quick update to longtime listeners. Developer Tea is going to be changing our schedule to do two episodes per week rather than three. This is not a signal that we are going to slow down the podcast, but instead this will allow us to give the time necessary to build even better content for this show. Thanks so much for listening to Developer Tea and this episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. This and every other episode of Developer Tea can be found at spec.fm, along with other incredible podcasts that are built specifically for designers and developers looking to level up in their careers. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.