Think like a machine

The most exciting problem to me is programming a machine to think and do like a human would. It’s ironic then that today I’m going to talk about how thinking like a machine has helped me become more productive. It has helped me solve one particular problem that has plagued me for years – reacting negatively when I fail to execute well on my plans. In fact, “reacting negatively” is an understatement. I would plunge into a downward spiral of stress eating and crippling self deprecation that would render me unable to do anything productive for days. For instance, if I planned to wake up at 6am everyday and missed for a few days in a row. Or if I fail a test or an interview. Or if I dream of solving AI but wake up everyday and realize that I’m just an average, over-reaching programmer.

Over the years I’ve learned to think of myself as a machine. A machine would continue performing at it’s peak ignoring any errors or if it’s smart enough, plunge into rapid self improvement to try to prevent itself from making the error again. If you think about it, this is the nature of technology, or rather of any evolutionary process : Try to change something. It might work really well or it might not work as expected. Try changing something else.

It’s the only sensible thing to do.

This might seem obvious but it wasn’t to me and internalizing it has produced huge gains in productivity. If I make plans to accomplish something over a weekend and wake up on Sunday having accomplished nothing, it’s become easier for me to get to work and try to make up for the lost time instead of spending Sunday crying about that lost time. And while making plans for next weekend, I’ll simply look back and try to figure out something small I could change to avoid this problem. This is super important because I like to plan out everything. And plans can be derailed by the tiniest unforeseen occurrences. This is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to deal with these occurrences. I know this isn’t the most actionable idea but if you suffer from a similar problem, I would encourage you to give it a thought.

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