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How Time Affects Decisions

Published 12/19/2016

In today's episode, we discuss the different ways that time can affect our perception of our own knowledge, especially with relation to trusting that knowledge.

Today's episode is sponsored by imgix! Billions of images are served through imgix every day. With a simple URL-based API, you can resize, filter, crop, and even detect faces in your photos with incredible ease. Check out what imgix has to offer to you today at https://spec.fm/imgix!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrellan in today's episode. We're talking about how time affects your decisions. Well, this week is a special week for a lot of people who are celebrating holidays around the world. So from from my house, we're celebrating Christmas. So for those of you who are celebrating Christmas, Mary Christmas to you all. And an array of holidays obviously are being celebrated all over the world. So whatever your respective holiday is or even if you aren't celebrating a holiday, where you are all experiencing the turn of the new year. So at the very least happy new year coming up here in just in just a week or so. Today's episode is really an a exercise in self awareness. That's what we're going to be talking about today. Self awareness and the way that we think in the way that we make decisions. And I hope that you enjoyed this discussion. Before we jump in, I want to make the note that we are going to be taking a short break. As I said, I and some of the other spec team members, we celebrate the Christmas holiday. And we're going to be taking a break over the course of the next week. We won't have an episode Wednesday, Friday or Monday, but we will pick back up on next Wednesday. Of course, if you don't want to miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea, as always, you can subscribe and whatever podcasting up you use. So today we're talking about how time affects your decisions. And I want you to imagine for a second, very simple X, Y line graph. So you have the X axis and the Y axis. And the X axis is going to, it's going to represent time as you travel through time. And about halfway across that X axis, we will consider that the present time and anything to the left is going to be in the past and anything into, onto the right side as X increases that's going to be into the future. Now, the Y axis is going to change based on the subject that we're talking about. But the Y axis is going to represent the varying things that our brains use to make decisions. So for example, trust or memory, right? So I want you to think about this graph as we're talking today. And imagine, you know, that left side being as far back into the past as you can remember. And perhaps even further back before you can remember. And then the right side of that graph going into the future, what you don't yet know. And the things that you can predict, but also the things that you can't predict far out into the future. So perhaps you've done this thought study before. But I want you to do it again with me here on today's episode of Developer Tea. I want you to think about how time and how specifically distance away from now, how that affects the types of decisions you make, your perception on your own decisions. And I want you to think about the shape of this graph, right? As time moves away from the center of the graph, either to the left or the right. I want you to think about different things that you know or different things that are in your mind, different ways that your mind has been built up. And really what today's episode talks about is the solidity of our knowledge and the flexibility of our minds as we learn new things. Of course, we talked about learning on Developer Teapretty much every episode from the very beginning. But learning isn't a simple topic and learning happens all the time, whether you intend for it to happen or not. And it's very complex. There's so much that's going on when your brain is changing and when it's acquiring new information and perhaps rejecting new information. So there's quite a few different shapes that this graph can take. Of course, perhaps the most obvious one for memory is going to be the largest in the middle, like a bell in the middle, right? So in other words, as we as we encounter things, we remember them most recently. The average person is going to remember the most recent past. And then as you go further back that bell curve is going to slope downward. Of course, we do have a few memories that spike up on that bell curve, right? There are certain key memories that you can pull out of your out of your past and remember specific instances, specific moments. Perhaps even specific places, smells, that kind of stuff. Your memory has these spikes in the past. So it's an interesting thought experiment to think about what the shape of this graph is going to look like when you fill in for that variable. But for the sake of your development career, what I want you to start thinking about with this graph, still with X being the time axis, with Y being your trust of the things that you know, right? Your trust of the things that you know, or more specifically the trust of the things that you have learned about. So for example, five or 10 years ago, you may have learned something about programming or about your professional life. You may have been given some knowledge that you trusted at that point. Now, as time has changed, as time has moved on, one of three things has happened. Either your trust of the thing that you learned or your trust of the thing that you knew at that point in time, five or 10 years ago, has grown. It has stayed relatively the same or it has dwindled, right? That's really the only three options that you have. Your trust has grown. It has stayed where it is or it has dwindled. Now, of course, you can argue and say that trust is also a complex and multi-dimensional thing. Maybe you have caveats that you have added. And it's become more complex than it was. Your trust is no longer as simple as it may have been when you first learned this particular topic. So just imagine for a second what your average behavior is. Do you tend to learn something and then catalog it away and not really think about it anymore, but still take it for granted. Perhaps your graph is going to be a street line. Or maybe the things that you learned five or 10 years ago, you tend to disagree with. You tend to push down on your trust scale and you want to look for something new. Maybe the right side of your graph going into the future, you are hoping to trust things more in the future than you trust them now. It's also possible that you are like most people where the left side tends to go down slightly and you trust yourself now more than you think you will ever trust yourself in the future. What tends to happen with those who trust themselves the most now, they look back at the past and they realize that they weren't as knowledgeable as they once thought they were. So it's very important to be aware of these things. And you can see this is going. Obviously, the shape of this graph is very different for everyone. If you are in a position now where you have some level of imposter syndrome, you may trust yourself significantly less now than you did in the past, maybe in a different career field or a different subject entirely. Or maybe you have a bias towards things that have been proven. In other words, the further ago that you learned it, the more true or the more trustworthy you perceived that thing to be. Now here's the amazing thing for every single parameter, if you want to call them parameters, for every single thing you encounter, your brain is going to do some level of interpolation of how much to trust that thing or how to weigh that thing and how to use the knowledge that you've gained in the past with respect to the present. Because if we always trusted every piece of knowledge at a linear level, then we would have constant conflict. We'd have constant frustration that which way to go, which how to make a particular decision, because the new information that we learn hasn't changed the old information that we learned. You see that time scale at the bottom, the only reason that is important is because as time moves forward, the information, the things that we've encountered, the things we've learned are experienced. All of that continues to move forward as well. So it's not really time that changes this metric. It's actually our experiences. The things that time brings about, it's more learning, it's more exposure to examples of how that previous learning actually plays out in reality. And sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we overly trust certain aspects of what we've learned based on their recency or perhaps based on their age. We have a fallacy of thinking that something that is very old has some higher level of authority or perhaps the opposite. We think that the new things are typically the most sophisticated because they are the most advanced. And perhaps that comes from the idea that they have the perspective of the most experience. So everything we encounter has kind of this hidden interpolation that our brain does at least theoretically. So how can we actually mess around with us? How can we think about this in order to better ourselves? We're going to talk about that in just a moment after we talk about today's sponsor, Imagix. Now aside from the theoretical nature of today's conversation, Imagix is a very practical tool. It's something that's going to help you build your applications, your products much faster because it's going to take a lot of the painful part of what you've done in the past out of your process. More specifically, we're talking about Images and serving up Images. If you're anything like me, if you've had the experiences that I've had, then you've probably had quite a few nightmares about installing image magic and all of the dependency nightmares that that brings along. And perhaps you've also seen timeout after timeout when processing images that was incredibly difficult to trace back. Imagix is going to handle this for you. The people at Imagix, as crazy as it may be, have absolutely nailed all of those processing problems. They've nailed all of the image magic installation issues that you have nightmares about every night. And what's better is they allow you to access all of those powerful features with something that's the opposite of a nightmare, quite simply one of the easiest APIs that I have ever used. I use it literally on every project that we do at Whiteboard. The image API that they have is entirely URL based. So all you have to do is pass parameters. They have great documentation. You pass parameters and they send you back an image. And of course, your images can be hosted on pretty much any cloud platform that you're already using. So all you're doing is passing them an image URL with some per ramps. And they're going to send back to you a filter image, a cropped image. Every time I look at their API, I find something new that I can do with images. For example, if you use PDFs in your application and maybe you need one of the PDFs as a JPEG, well, you can do that with Imagix too. You can split PDFs. You can mask images. I mean, there's the possibilities are incredibly extensive. So go and check out Imagix. I highly recommend it. Spec.fm slash Imagix. And this isn't just a sales pitch. I really do use Imagix in pretty much every single application, every product that we build at Whiteboard. So go and check it out. Once again, Spec.fm slash IMG IX. Thank you again to Imagix for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about how time and how your distance away from the present affects the way you view a particular learning moment, a particular experience, perhaps even things like best practices that you once learned in the past, how those have changed over time. Maybe your coding style, these are more specific to developers. And of course, all of this is applicable to this to this subject because as time moves on, we especially learn new things as developers. We learn new ways of doing things, people's opinions change, and of course, as a result of the world around us changing, we also respond by changing in some way or another most of the time. So now that we know this about ourselves, now that we know that if we look back into the past, the things that we've experienced five minutes ago versus five days ago versus five years ago, obviously we're going to view those things differently. If we are thinking about the graph that we drew earlier, our level of trust, for example, for our own knowledge or our own opinions from five years ago is likely to be significantly less than our level of trust for our own opinions today. So how can we use this information to get better? Well, I suggest explicitly modifying your own perception. What does that mean? I'm not talking about doing some crazy VR experiment. I'm saying explicitly modify how you are thinking about something. So for example, if you're taking for granted good coding practices that you learned five years ago, maybe you have some opinions that are somewhat set in stone in your own mind. You have some ideas that you learned a long time ago. They've served you well over the years. So they've only been emboldened. Oh, take a moment while you are thinking about whatever your current problem that you're trying to solve and you're using this information for. Take a moment and imagine if you no longer believed those things or perhaps degrade your level of appreciation for the things that you had set in stone for these old coding practices that you trust so much. How does that change your perspective? How would it change the way you're solving a problem? It's possible that the best solution to a problem is one that you haven't thought about or one that goes against some of those things that you learned so long ago. Or maybe your brain works the opposite way. You have distrusted something based on its age or based on how long ago you learned it. You've decided to discount that part of your learning schema, the things that you learned so long ago. Take a moment and try applying some of those things to your current situation. How does that change your perspective? Or perhaps you trust or distrust something based on how recent you learned it or you encountered it. Take a moment and explicitly allow yourself to flip your perspective on that thing. If you indeed decided to trust that new framework or if you indeed decided to trust that new best practice or that trending topic in development or on the flip side, perhaps you have the tendency to constantly be moving to new products. How would it look if you had to use something that was more established? If it was something that wasn't brand new but rather a little bit older, how would that change your perspective? Now, why are we doing this? Why are we manipulating our own assumptions? The reason for this is because a lot of times, even though our brain is trying to take these shortcuts and do this interpolation on how much should we trust something or how valid do we think something is, even though our brain is quite good at doing that for us, sometimes it's going to mess. Sometimes your brain is going to make those decisions for you incorrectly. Because we may be doing something that our brain doesn't necessarily instinctually understand the purpose of, we may be okay with failure or we may be okay with volatility. The complexity of this subject goes significantly deeper than we have time to go into today and today's episode of Developer Tea. Of course, this is a short podcast, but go and look into these differences. If you're more interested, you can go and look into kind of the cognitive dissonance between what you intend to do or what you want to do and the way that your brain is operating. Of course, sometimes they're going to collide. So you have to explicitly control or be aware, more importantly, be aware of what your brain is doing versus what the possible outcomes are. So take some time and experiment. Experiment with thinking about what if I trusted things differently or what if I had a different perspective on this older or newer technology or thinking into the future. What if I today am less trustworthy than I will be in the future? What if my experiences today inform me incorrectly tomorrow? Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I know today's episode was a little bit more heady, but hopefully you can digest it, maybe go and breed some more extra material outside of Developer Teaover the course of the holiday. Thank you so much for listening to this show this year. As always, I'm incredibly thankful for each and every one of you. Another quick announcement of course, in January, we're going to have a little bit of a slant towards JavaScript in a good way. We're going to be talking a little bit more about JavaScript than we have in the past. Kind of as a general focus area, hopefully we'll have some guests that are active in the JavaScript community. If you have any questions about JavaScript specifically or about maybe some ideas in JavaScript, please send them in. You can always contact me on the spec Slack community by going to spec.fm slash Slack or you can email me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. Of course, another huge thank you to Imagix for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. All of your image serving and manipulation needs are solved so easily by Imagix. Go and check it out. Spec.fm slash Imagix that spec.fm slash IMGIX. Thank you again for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Until next time, enjoy your tea.