Entries from July 2009 ↓

Aha, it makes sense now

An essay by Paul Graham on Why Nerds are Unpopular:

When I was in school, suicide was a constant topic among the smarter kids. No one I knew did it, but several planned to, and some may have tried. Mostly this was just a pose. Like other teenagers, we loved the dramatic, and suicide seemed very dramatic. But partly it was because our lives were at times genuinely miserable.

Bullying was only part of the problem. Another problem, and possibly an even worse one, was that we never had anything real to work on. Humans like to work; in most of the world, your work is your identity. And all the work we did was pointless, or seemed so at the time.

And there was no way to opt out. The adults had agreed among themselves that this was to be the route to college. The only way to escape this empty life was to submit to it.

Which, in my personal experience is completely true.

I’m a lot happier when the work and tasks I’m doing have a reason. Written problems bored me silly, and I got much more reward back from helping my friends with them. Scripted laboratory work was similar, although a little better.

Perhaps that’s why I liked computer science early on. It was possible to easily experiment with whatever you liked. You didn’t need the tutors to arrange the right chemicals or reagents beforehand (as in biochemistry or genetics).