Elon Musk has us thinking about brain to brain signaling bandwidth after founding a company to make brain implants. I'm reminded of the Vulcan mind meld which is how I described pair-programming. page
Reading a book, watching a movie, or for some, walking through a proof, makes for a high bandwidth experience. To this I add pair-programming, specifically pairing with Kent Beck in the late '80s.
I've done a lot of pairing in a lot of languages since then and it has all been good. But as I read about Musk's vision, I realize my closest faint taste of his vision has been with Kent.
Kent and I had alignment of purpose, shared experience, a vocabulary of patterns, and a supporting research environment. We also had Smalltalk-80 which had reached its own pinnacle by incorporating the best ideas of the time and discarding the worst.
Programming progressed like a conversation between the three of us, Kent and I and Smalltalk. We would build a model of something that interested us and watch that model work. We felt more limited by our own imagination than the bandwidth of screen, mouse or objects we directly manipulated. With a few words, or a mouse gesture, our coordinated understandnig advanced.
Here is what made this work so well.
Abstraction. Good ones became better with use.
Vocabulary. We named what we saw as we saw it.
Immediacy. Whatever we did was done without wait.
Visual. In bounds or out, we could always draw.
Trust. Whoever had the mouse lead the way.
Relevance. We knew what we did was important.
Love. We cared about each other and our computer too.
Kent and I programmed at a level that has not yet become routine. So what happened? Mostly we live within an economy that rewards meeting expectations, not exceeding them. We had friends that knew we were on another plane and tried to recruit us together. That never worked. Our plane was invisible. Who would pay for that?
Musk works the economy with some skill. He has landed a rocket standing up. But then so has Hamilton, on the moon, with lives on board. I wonder if he has in his life experienced the mind meld I have described. From what I've heard, he enjoys being inscrutable. Where is the room then for a Conduit of High Fidelity