March 6, 2023 — I believe Minsky's theory of the brain as a Society of Mind is correct1. His theory implies there is no "I" but instead a collection of neural agents living together in a single brain. We all have agents capable of dishonesty—evolved, understandably, for survival—along with agents capable of acting with integrity. Inside our brains competing agents jockey for control.
I like to think the majority of agents in my own brain steer me to behave honestly. This wasn't always the case. As a kid in particular I was a rascal. I'd use my wits to gain short term rewards, like sneaking out, kissing the older girl, or getting free Taco Bell (and later, beer). But the truth would catch up to me, and my honest neural agents would retaliate on the dishonest ones.
I've gotten more honest as I've gotten older but I have further to go. I'd love for my gravestone to read:
Here lies Breck. 1984-2084 Dad to Kaia and Pemma. Became an extraordinarily honest man. Also for some reason founded FunnyTombstones.com
I am going to double down on something that has worked for me in my programming career: open source.
My increasing honesty is evidenced in my code habits. I've gotten to the point where I'm writing almost exclusively open source code and data.
It's futile to lie about open source projects. There are too many intricate details for a false narrative to account for. Not only can readers inspect and learn what a program does and how it works, but they can also inspect how it was built. The effort, time and resources it took. All the meandering wrong paths and long corrections. Who did what. The occasional times when something was done faster than promised, and the many times when forecasts were too optimistic.
My software products are imperfect. They always seem much worse to me than I know they can be. But they are honest, and one can see I am hellbent on making them better.
With closed source software one gets a shiny finished product without seeing any of the truth behind what it took to make. And almost always what people hide from you they will lie to you about.
The closed source software company is like the social media influencer who posts an amazing sunset shot of them in a bathing suit swimming next to dolphins. They will make it look effortless and hide from you the truth: the hundred less glamorous photos, the dozen excursions with no dolphins, and the intense workouts and hidden costs of their lifestyle. They will hide from you all the flaws.
On social media this probably has minor consequences but in software eventually consumers are left increasingly paying the price for dishonest software. Technical debt accumulates in closed source projects and in the long run more honest approaches turn out to be better.
Like my software projects, I don't have my life all figured out. I'm figuring it out and improving as I go. Stupidly, besides this blog I didn't do much in the way of open sourcing my life. I'm not talking about sharing glamour shots on Instaface. Instead I'm talking about open sourcing the plumbing: financials, health, legal contracts. The things people generally don't share, at least in my region of the world.
Now, I would be lying if I said I got here by choice.
On October 6th of last year, I showed up to my then-wife's parents' house with flowers. As the saying goes "Flowers are cheap. Divorce is expensive." Unfortunately, my wife was off in a suite with someone else, the marriage was not savable, and divorce is expensive2.
I thought my marriage was an edifice that would last forever. Instead it crumbled as quickly as an unstable building in an earthquake. In the rubble I found a gem: I now give zero fucks.
I am an 89 year old man in a 39 year old's body. I am not afraid of divorce. I am not afraid of public embarrassment. I am not afraid of financial ruin. I am not afraid of dishonest judges. I am not afraid of war. I am not afraid of death. I am now bald Evie from V for Vendetta except with a penis and far, far less attractive.
Things that people don't publish are the things they lie about. If I want to force myself into being extraordinarily honest, I need to take extraordinary steps. If I publish everything, then I can lie about nothing.
I have the opportunity to open source my life. Not for attention or because I think other people will care, but because it will help me be a more honest me. I won't have to waste a second thinking about what to reveal to someone, or deciding whether to be coy. I will make it futile to lie about anything.
In addition to keeping me honest, I see a lot of ways how open sourcing my life will have similar benefits to open sourcing my code. I can get more feedback, and collaborate with more people on new approaches to life.
I have a lot of ideas. I want to open source my net worth, income and expenses, assets, health information, and a lot more. There's a lot of opportunity to also build new languages to do so. I'm excited for the future. Time to get to work.
1 Minsky: I also believe his theory is as significant as Darwin's. Below is a crude illustration of his theory. Everyone's brain there is a struggle between honest agents (blue) and dishonest ones (red).
2 Divorce: Getting legally married was a big mistake. In my experience, lawyers and judges in California Family Court are not steered by honest agents and I regret blindly signing up for their corrupt system.