Nondeterministic

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 · 2 min read

I wrote this post to inaugurate a friend’s blog a while back and decided to preserve it here. Though dated February 2015, I added it to ComfortablyNumbered in early October.

Communication. It’s what separates a painter from an artist and a performer from a musician. It turns a mob into an army and a fight into a debate. It’s what separates coexistence and civilization.

In the world of computer science, we have a fictitious creation called the Nondeterministic Computer. The Nondeterministic Computer, given a problem, tests every possible solution of the problem instantanteously, and reports the correct answers. The Nondeterministic Computer, were it to be realized, would revolutionize computer science, data science, protein folding research, and of course cryptography.

Guess what? You have the functional equivalent of a Nondeterministic Computer right now. You have, to put it lightly, millions of brilliant minds at your disposal. Combined, you have millions of years of experience, instinct, opinion, and innovation at your command.

Because just as wonderful as Nondeterministic Computing is Nondeterministic Communication. Of perhaps the 2,000 people that will read this post in the next couple of months, some will agree. Some will disagree. Some will be affected by what I say, and some will make it a mission to prove me wrong. The vast majority will ignore it, spending less than 5 seconds on the page, and only skimming a few words.

For all practical purposes, I am running my thoughts through a vast supercomputer and getting a decent representation of humanity’s views on them. I can do this anonymously, and I can do this for free.

In the scientific and academic world, communication happens through papers. Progress happens when Darwin must publish his research before Wallace, when Einstein refutes Newton, when Watson and Crick race Franklin’s lab, when Shamir writes a paper breaking a cryptosystem Merkle and Hellman thought was secure.

In the tech world, progress happens when someone—a high schooler, an employee at a startup, or the creator of Linux—leaves a vitriolic comeback on a blog post.

Blog posts are what truly reflect us: our opinions, our rants, our tutorials, and our reviews document, piece by piece, the world we have created. And the comments document what we think of it.

In other words: you are responsible for the canon in this world. For perpetuating knowledge. For inciting discussion. For starting arguments. For causing change.

So write! Write controversial things! Express unpopular opinions, and do so vehemently! Hate on something everyone adores! Use strongly-worded phrases. Use exclamation points. Make noise, be mean. Get harsh feedback, it’s what you want.

Be wrong once in a while. Say stuff you’ll cringe at in a year (because, to be honest, you’ll cringe at everything you wrote a year back). Do what it takes to put your opinions out there, because they matter. As a culture, we’re fallible, and someone needs to call us out on it.

Your words are elegant weapons; use them to create a more civilized age.

And don’t be afraid to put your thoughts through a nondeterminisic computer just because it’ll reject 99.99% of them. That’s what nondeterministic computers do.

This post first appeared on Pdgn.

(Speaking of which, I hope they write more on their seemingly-dead blog. They have good things to say. Everyone does.)

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