Midlife Crisis as Programmer and AI

Dec 23, 2023

Just like an ordinal programmer, I studied Software Engierneering as my major in university. After graduating in 2010, I worked for almost two years at Thoughtworks as an agile consultant, primarily focusing on Ruby on Rails web development and scrum practices. However, I found mobile developement hot and intriguing and decided to give it a shot. I joined a small mobile development team at ReignDesign, specializing in iOS develpment, with some Android as well. Five years later, when the company relocated to Chile, I transitioned to my current role as teach leader in a new company as my ex-colleuge invited.This new role involves hanlding the entire techstack(web/app/backend/infra). What particularly interests me is the challenge of expanding my coding skills while also managing a team.

Each transition has been smooth for me as I’m able to learn quickly and adapt. I still have a passion for technology and coding. While I may not be as eager as someone attempting “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks”, learinng new skills is a routine part of my daily coding, and I thoroughly enjoy experimenting and playing with them.

In 2021, during the period when the FED was printing money like helicopter and every tech company seemed to be expanding and hiring, I was approached by some companies. The first one was Facebook London, and I performed poorly in the coding part of the interview. Well, I hadn’t taken any serious inteviews for a long time and barely knew what the current tech interview looked like. That failing was a genuine shock. I took a step back, quickly gathered my thoughts, condcuted some research, and thoroughly reviewed the interview process. Then I worked on the basics for LeetCode and system design. The Behavioral part was never a problem for me, as I always spoke truthfully about myself :) In about four weeks, I practiced diligently on algorithms and designs in my spare time. Surprisingly, it refreshed some knowledge I didn’t know before and learned some new things.

The second time I tried with Booking.com, and it didn’t go well either and failed at the system design part. However, I became more familiar with the process and gained experience. Later, I succesfully secured two offers from CloudKitchen and Flexport. CloudKitchen was pretty cool for its homework assignment of coding part, but it just looked too mysterious and the vesting plan was not friendly. Flexport wasn’t as appealing to me. I guess tech company need just spend those money out to get more money and their pay was good at that time. Ultimately, considering my familiy reasons and the fact that I wasn’t actively seeking new opportunities, I decided to turn down those offers. When Facebook London approached me for the second time, I replied to them that I wasn’t interested. So, I chose to stay with current company.

What goes up must come down. Towards the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, the global economy is slowing down. The big four tech companies are undergoing massive layoffs. It is not just the tech industry; other sectors have also begun to cut their spending. This impact is being felt in China as well. My once-filled LinkedIn message inbox is now almost empty. What’s even worse is that the clients of my current company have either lowered their budgets significantly or completely remove them.

I’m 35, about to turn 36. The reason 35 is a sensitive age in China is that if you want to work for the government and get a stable job, you need take civil service examination, which has an age limit of 35, even if not explictly stated. Therefore, that door is now closed for me.

In a developing country, society is changing rapidly. There have been plenty of young people graduating from college every year since the early 2000s. The unemployment rate for young individuals is high. In fact, in most big tech companies, the intensity of work is extremely high, with a 996 work culture here employees often work from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week, resembling Japan’s work culture in the 80s.

There is a widespread consensus about “35 crisis” for programmers. You can find numerous posts on this topic discussing anxiety and confusions on the popular Chinese programmer forum: v2ex.com/t 35岁. Some can’t help but asking, “Is food delivery and ride-sharing the final job for elderly programmers?” source:大龄程序员的出路难道是开滴滴送外卖吗 - V2EX. Even though the IT industry has a relatively short history, spanning around 30 years, and dicussions on simliar topics used to popup every once in a while, in past two years, one can sense a certain coldness and chill in the industry.

With the emergence of AI technologies like ChatGPT, even some coding tasks can now be accomplished by AI. The concerns that arises is, are programmers going to be replaced by AI?

Yep, that’s what I’m facing. I might lose my current job soon, and it doesn’t seem like I’ll find another one anytime soon. All those years built on a somewhat great feeling of “I’m a good programmer, and everything is under control” now resemble a ballooning situation that suddenly gets pierced, and the sound is so loud it leaves your head buzzing. It is like a curveball thrown by life, and those feelings of comfort, saftety, and secruity dissoves and vanishes in the blink of an eye.

Damn, that really hurts.

Observations from Kid Playing

We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination. (David Lynch)

There is a ruler from society that measures our outward material success. These metrics are visible, and we’re accustomed to measuring ourselves by them since we grow up. We aspire to climb higher in that ranking by that ruler, believing it will make us feel safer and better. Subconsciously, it becames a part of our ego, and even we identify ourselves with it.

Now, by this ruler, I’m sliding to the bottom part, fearing being eliminated by KPIs. That ego and identity starts working against me, triggering a chain of negativity, connected with some of the worst memories and emotions from the past. This leads to a serious self-doubt. I can feel the urge to desperately try to get out this bottom as soon as possible.

That self-doubt has prompted me to review my whole life.

I start to ask “Who am I? Did I really love what I do ?” What if that ruler is gone, “who am I really?” To what I should measure myself against?

In recents years, some of my best family relatives who see me grow up passed away abruptly. They passed away in a way I never thought or expected. I ‘m so used to thhat they are gonna be there forever, and now suddenly gone. Life is uncertain; It leaves you pondering on how fragile life is and how small humans are. Hence, I want to see through that external ruler, e.g. material possessions, social norms, and strip away those superficial layers, and put aside labels like “practicality and maturity”, just to get a glimpse of that in its raw form. One thing clear to me is that is not about meeting other people’s expectations, not for vanity, not for fame, not for money, not for comparison. None of that. I have an intuition, a hunch that the answer lies not in the outward, but in the question itself - inward - deep inside me.

I’m bothered. Life goes on. I have an almost three-year-old kid. My wife and I live away from our hometown, renting a house here. We play the roles of “teammates/comrades”, as we call it in China here, with the same goal of taking care of our child. My kids tends to stick to his mom all the time. When my teammate needs her own space, like taking a shower or going out shopping, I have to ensure I can took after the kid without leaving him crying for mom. It’s a challenging task; I need to distract him. Well watching his favorite shows like Pepper Pig, Bamboo Club, Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf or dinosaurs won’t last long, so I have to actively engate with him via soem activities. Sometimes, I take him to children’s playground indoor/outdoor, some park, and sometimes we just play with toys at home.

It was one of those ordinary moments; my son sat there playing with his building blocks, and I lay beside him, just watching him play. I could see he was fully engrossed in the game, his genius and dedicated expression on his face, as if time had frozen, and the world around him had blurred out. I felt something drawing me in, resonating with something once familiar and deep - the serenity and joy. It just healed, and in that space and time, I was free from all kinds of anxieties, fears, and desires. I don’t want to sound corny, for example, religious revelations - like Martin Luther’s caught in a thunderstorm and Blaise Pascal’s two accidents of riding in a carriage - I did feel at that time I saw some light glowing from his background. That Aha moment awakes me in a way of non-logic/non-rational even inexpressable, and my initution was right.

It reminds me of those similar sparks I had during playing basketball and fishing. In some intense situations, I found that if I was able to drop out my pre-plans of my “best” moves to attack my opponents, suddenly my mind looks like it hasn’t got a chance to spin up and plot some plans. It is a natural and instinctive move just coming out of me. That move is totaly unexpected yet smooth. The oppnonet is like a dance companion. We dont’ figiht against each other; instead we dance togother. There is not a “me” in this picutre; the hoop, the oponent, and myself are just harmoniously blended as one. I’m so concentrated, like my kid is playing; somehow, the line that divides and differentiates people and objects seems to be gone. I remember I keep recalling that unfathomable experience all the time.

I also notice that when my son is playing, he is free from the fear of being judged by what the final result should be, the rules instilled with how it should be played, not to meet somenoes’ expxectation or approval, above the duality of good/bad and past/future. That ‘s something that we can all relate to, that’s who we were in childhood. Kids know how to play, they’re born with the gift to just play, to explore, to discover.

Maybe we think they haven’t develped a high-level consciousness , hence only with subconscious and aninmal spritit, but sometimes people’s consciousness have gone too far and burden me so much as I grows; it just overwhlems other aspects. I forgot that play is just simply for sake of play.

Here are three takeways from my observation:

  • Blank paper or empty cup mindset: To play is to leave behind the impressiosions or preconceived ideologies, to engage in play to disover and explore.
  • Switch play smoothly: When the play doesn’t seems fun to him, he git-stashes it and switches to a new play naturally. No baggage or burden of the previous play is carried to next one. Itis about single-tasking, not multi-tasking.
  • Playing is a nature state of being: Not to please or seek benefits, nor to escape punishments. It’s a pure and unfiltered state of being.

My Experiement

In the beginning, I really wanted to get rid of that anxiety and self-dbouting, but soon I found myself in a position of choincelessness. I couldn’t do anytihng about it. That has made me to slow down involuntarily. Anyone could feel that slow motion of time when invovled in negative emotions. With the playing experience from my son mentioned above, I started to play with awareness - trying to apply that in different aspects of my life through experiments.

Quite the oppose of the scentific side, I checked my criticism, logical analysis, and discursive thinking at the door,attempting to connect again with he once-swept-under-the-carpet child innocence. To have a playful mindset, to release the inner child. I’m not meant to be an anti-intellectual. When driving and wating at the crossroad for green light, you can’t say, “ Hey , red is not red, green is not green so let’s go”, as it would not only hurt you but also hurt others. However it would be perfectly suitable for me to walk in the park, look at the green leaves and red flowers, and conduct an experiement of dropping that “red is red, green is green” judgetment or concept or categorization. Just see the things behind its names and labels, feel their essences and reality in a direct way. It is at my disposal, and anytime I could stop and revert.

One of those experiments is about trying to distract my sons’ attenion from his mom. I saw a couple of times when he had a pen, and he just freely drew by himself. I thought, why not do some basic idiot-proof hand pencil drawing together? Well quickly I could hear a voice inside my head, whispering, “Screw you, just recall, throughout your life, you have no aesthetic cells at all, no taste. Come on,you’re a programmer, not a designer; you are just good at playing 0011s. You dont’ that have crazy hairstyle or unique looks. No artistic temperament. Don’t be childish”. Yeah, but this time I thought “ Whatsoever, I’ll give a shot”. We started drawing first with his favorite animals. Sometimes, he would collect different leaves from trees to show to his mom, adn later, we would sit together and just oberve the texture, lines and sahpes of those leaves, and draw them on the paper.

It is a clicking experience - two human beings are playing, sharing and connecting. There are some vibrations.

Those drawings, by any academic standards or social standards, wouldn’t be considered art. But I feel it is the art, as for me , art is about epxressing oneself honstly and being authentic, showing what one sees and feels in life with their heart. Art is not fixed or limted to some labels, titles or jobs; it is limitless and is everywhere in everybody.


As I build up those expeirements, one thing starts to emerge and keeps hitting on me. That’s when I do one activity, for example, Active A, and I bump into a wall, something like writer’s block, where you feel you have nothing to say about and no clue how to move on. You’re kinda in a mess and have no inspirations, like a stream that gets drained.

Instead of forcing it with my will the hard way, to keep banging at the wall, I notice life leads me to next thing with a smooth transition. It is when you got stuck; maybe the sun is shining outside, so you go out for a walk; maybe it is raining, oddly enough, and I want to feel how subtly the raindrops fall on my face, like what every child would do for the first time; maybe it is lunchtime, and I go out to grab some food; maybe my kid invites me to play, and I play; maybe friend asks me out; maybe I’ve been sitting too long, and my body reminds me to get some exercise, like fishing or playing basketball or jogging or streching.

I know it sounds conry, cliche, and very subjective, like a faith healer from Megachurches. I do feel It always offers something or activities from different parts of life to move on to next.

I stash those things about Activity A, and go with fully empty mindset like a blankslate into what comes next. Later when I came back to Activity A, to my surprise, most of the time, I just have some different views spontaneously. It wont’ directly solve my problem at hand or guarantee to bring inspirations, but I found it interesting to play with those views, and usally, it gives new dimensions that I never got into before just free to explore.

It seems nature is sorting through those raw, unfiltered gathered pieces of information in the background without our knowing. It merged the new with our existings knowledge like an alchemist, connecting different dots and aspects of life, much like a child’s drawing and exploring, in a mind-blowing form. Then, all I need to do is just: “Trust the Process” .

But sometimes I think: “How you do know it? How sure you are? What’s your proof” ?

Chuang Tzu who is a classic and famous Taoism philosopher, dating back to 530BC in China, put it very nicely:

Those who rely upon the arc, the line, compasses and the square to make correct forms injure the natural construction of things. Those who use cords to bind and to glue to piece together interfere with the natural character of things… There is an ultimate reality of things. Things in their ultimate reality are curved without the help of arcs, straight without lines, round without compasses, and rectangular without right angles… In this manner all things create themselves from their own innermost reflections and none can tell how they came to do so (Ch. 8).

I don’t know, it is just my gut feeling. It goes beyond conviction, faith, belief. I’m giving it all and just aligning and flowing with it, with no expectations or attachments. It is immanent by ones’ nature.

I will do my part by trying to keep my window open, setting up my antenna high on the roof, just to pick up any signals that nature is sending to me. At the same time, I collect unfiltered informations from expericences in my life in fullest potential and “send” it back. Nature is doing its part by sorting all the information I just recieved into the right places. I dont’ borther about my originality, nor try to preconcevie it or to control it by any efforts and means, as any form of interference would do nothing but destroy it. I just do my part, and the brain and nature takes care of the marinating process, thereby taking care of me. Instead of control, I surrender. It is like a tacit agreement. It is like showerthoughts, you couldn’t figure out how it just pops up in your head, but it just happens.

The abliity to connect different parts, things seemingly unrelated on the surface, is the nature that has greatest and most primordial source of creativity.

I could get in touch with it through the lens of expericence of the diversity. Those gems are scattered in the most mundane of our daily life.

Many artistists claimed to have had experiences using drugs as a source of inspriation and creativity, even some the biggest names. Well, here’s what I think: when you’re in a state of craving: “it feels good, I need more; I have a tight schedule, deadlines is looming, I need get it done i before xxx, so just give it more; I need sold 2 millions copys; oh I need it to get into top 100 of billboard; oh this one is good, I need make next one more impressive”, trying to force your will upon it literally closes all windows and pushed that connection away. Some take shortcuts, especially in easily drugs-accessible environments, desperately using drugs to throw themself in a delusion, hoping to get what they fantasize about. Eventually, the shortcut takes its toll. Not only does it lead to the loss of sobriety , but it also damages their body and brain in inreversible ways. Most importantly, it breaks the tacit agreements. They might have lost the connection through other ordinaly life experiences. The threshold gets lifted up and not easy to fall back to normal. The relap is bound to happen.

Creativity’s emergence is not intentional but natural and spontangeous. Sometimes, thinking is the biggest mistake one can make, one has to feel and touch with ones’ raw sense.

The inner boundary and inner compass are something we, as human beings, are born with by nature. However, we gradually lose it during process of the growing up. It bring peace, tranquility and freedom. The boundary is set up voluntarily and spontaneously, not baed on one’s desires or will, nor dictated by societal rules. I’m not suggesting exploring the flaws of laws, like what Wall Streets and Crypto world (except Bitcoin) often do, while the laws and the moral code from outside may become stale, rigid and outdated, but one’s inner code and law is always fluid and up-to-date.

What connects with people is you connecting yourself

I need to clarify a little bit here: the things I referred to above, such as the essential truth, fundamental principles, objective realtit, natural, universe, or the alchemist -whatever you name or label - all points to something beyond.

The thing behind is something couldn’t be put into words. It might be interpreted as an intuition of “Oneness”, “Void”, “Emptyness”, “Unity” or “Substance”. But those would limit it, as if it is only related to religion. It is beyond human language yet not isolated from our daily life. No complicted jargons or fancy spritual words need to be put here. Anyone or anything that looks up to the sky right above them could get it. Therefore, the word “universe” is more common and relatable for everyone, regardless of their background, ethitiy, color or nationlitiy, and will be used in following part of this article as reference to that inexpressible, unfathomable, incomprehensible, infinitely elusive thing, not by its literal meaning in science.

There is an ineresting story from Chuang-tzu, which can be found in his work : <A Happy Excursion> .


It literally says: There are thousands of thousands of holes in the mountains with different shapes. Some look like a nose, some look like a mouth, some look like an ear, with different internal structures. When the wind is blowing on the earth, either small or strong, those holes generate different sounds, each with a unique pitch and tone. In whole, it is as if nature is conducting a symphony or orchestra. How harmonious it is!

Each hole has a different internal structure—some may look messy, and some may looks perfect. However, when each hole is self-asserting, each contributes its own unique tone to that grand melody. Despite their differences and diversity, each has its root in the shared harmony of universe. These individuals are somehow connected at their deepest level. When each is expressing themselfves, quite counterintuitively, they don’t have a specfic aim for that harmony, or it doesn’t exist in their heads; it is never part of their initial drives—it is all about themseves.

Suprisingly, when one expresses their seeing and feeling about the universe through his unfilterd lens in their own way, the universe seems to better connect to others. It awakens the true authentic side of someone, inviting them to make their own sounds—no pretentiousness, no imitation. Hence connecting as a whole and feeling the flow of harmony.

Don’t seek to copy what someone does; dont seek them—seek what they’re seeking, what they are after. Don’t concentrate on the finger; instead, focus on what it is pointing to—the moon, the universe, the harmony—the one possessing the greatest source of creativy, beauty and compassion.

Midlife Crisis

The midlife life crisis, if I don’t identify myself with it, If I just leave the ego part aside, could be an interesting thing to look at. The overwall evironment is not friendly in tech market; at the same time, I need provide bread on the table, and my energy and body condition are decling—those are the realities with no denial. To flip the coin, there are some implications:What if career is not about some fixed path? Waht if finanace is not about linear progression? What if body conditionling is decling but becoming more efficient?

Life awalys providers you something new. And those are great times to challenge some long-held ideas, assumptions, or impressions. To peel off the ego, artificallity, and prentence, to engate in a direct, face-to-face conversation with the naked self. Then it is just a play in a different form.

Anyone who tries and pratices basic punches would understand that, instead of just focusing on using fist or hand alone, it is actaully a flow and sequence involving pretty much the whole body. The power starts with legs from the groud, then the hips and core, back and shoulders, and finally to your arms and fists. Different msucles engage and do their own work; they know when to be flexible and when to be focused. As a result, they provide maximum power with efficient body mechanics. The body seems to know how to corrdinate and express itself in its nature and spontaneous way as one whole, indispensab, and indivisible. This is the same for shooting a basketball. The majority of power to throw the ball comes not mainly from the arms and hands, but rather from legs ,hip and core.

The world is your oyster.

In sports, I started to do experiment, committing myself to let my mind recess and letting the body reveal itself, to be the protagonist. Trusting it and letting it work in its own way. With more awareness and pratice, I found that I’m able to get into that flow/zone state and have that lazer focus more often.

That’s a hell of a lot of fun in this process.

Well, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do planning, but that planning itself requires a prerequisite to living fully in the present moment. Therefore, not being attached to the outcome of the planning, not identifying oneself with it. Anytime, anywhere, we are playing, experiencing, flowing, and being. At any moment, we just know that we are self-sufficient by ourselves.

Just think about it: the midlife crisis is actually not that big crisis comparing to following one. In this digital era, the Brave New World, where tranditional values were wrecked, there is a huge void and emptness at the heart. Some products, developed with sophisticated algorithrim and designed with attractive intefaces UI/UX, are built to solely exploit the dopmaine of theirs users and get them hooked. Those are the most intellectual people with a very deep understanding on the science of psychology, the dopamine system, and how human brains work. These products keep someone busy with instant gratification so that they don’t have time to think about that void and lonelness. Another would be to create an image of ideal self on the internet and get other people admiring or envying, all shiny, bling-bling, facny life. It makes them feel good, and it seems to be a sign indicating someone has found their success.

In a world where flooded with so many stimulis and easy-pleasures-gainings products(source: Thanks to the Internet, I have probably seen more naked ladies than all of my ancestors combined. : Showerthoughts (reddit.com)), to find ones’ real vocation, one can’t rely on one’s will and seek some magic silver bullet from the outside. Because that outside relief is like spring, the more you press it, the higher it would bounce back, hence hurting more. We need connect to something bigger than us—the universe. We’re universe inside a human, not a human inside universe. From the attainment of that state of being and high-functioning, universe would support us by all the powers and potentialities inherent in its diversity and vitality, hence one’s strength would go far beyond what ones’s will and ego-form self could offer. That force and empowerment could help one gain clarity through the foggy smoky cloud haunting us, and find themselves a serenity, peace and clam state. That source of strength starts from the center of one’s being.

The nosier it is, the more obvious the quietude would be. Those strong negative feelings and emotions from the so-called “crisis”,maybe—I feel—is the desperate awakening call to some part of my rigid/fixed way of living. In that moment, I have never felt so aliving before, as I realized I had been dismissing and rejecting it.

Not too bad, fun to play.


In the beginning of 2023, along with ChatGPT, there are LLM based code interpretors such as Microsoft’s Coilpot. I use both of these extensively in my daily coding. They help eliminate tedious and boring trivials coding tasks, almost remove the need for searches on stackoverflow or google, and significantly reduce the cognitive workload.

Tools like fine.dev and sweep.dev even enable product managers to make some junior developer-level changes through a chat interface. Those tools read the codebase, plan the changes, write github issues, and submit pull requests. For instance, if a product manager needs to change some text or colors - those small changes, they can directly tell the AI and generate code changes and even auto trigger the deployment process on CI system without involving a developer. Although it is still somewhat limited and can only handle simple and basic codings. And the demo might look fancy and impressive but not perform well with real-world projects, it certainly showcases some promising potential.

There are concerns that if AI can do some junior developer coding, it may eventually progress and evolve to senior developer coding, posing a potential crisis for programmers who could be replaced.

This brings to mind the Luddite Movement in early 19th-century England, where textile workers sabotage the emgering machinery. Those workers belived that the machines would take away their jobs and perceived them as threats to their livelihoods. There was a strong fear that the introduction of this technologies would lead to the displacment of traditional skilled workers, declining wages, and worse working conditions.

As industrial revolutions advance and pipelines are introducted, the workers has turned into “screws” in the machinery of the product line. In Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film “Modern Times”, the portray of of small individuals confronting gaint machines shows the repetitive and dehumanizing nature of work. Humans are percieved as nothing more than tools and instruments for the end goal, rather than being valued as human beings.

Man is a slave to the machinery, much as it was a slave to the God before the Humanism Movement of the 15th century.

Before the Humanism Movement, the prevailing belief was in the fallen and sinful nature of human beings from Middle Ages. Remeber what St Augustine saids – three vices of lust, there is a disease called curiosity. Humans were expected to always remember to be humble by their sins(pride etc) and consicious of their miserable and despicable existence, watched over by a patriarchal God. They deserved it and should live in fear of the Law, at the mercy of God’s grace.

“From the same motive,men proceed to investigate the workings of nature, which is beyond our ken—things which it does no good to know and which men only want to know for the sake of knowing.” (Saint Augustine - Confessions)

However, people could be gawking at freaks in a sideshow, meanwhile, they could make investigations in nature/universe and comes up with philosophy like those great classic greek figures did. Pico Mirandola, in his “The Oration on the Dignity of Man”, boldly and loudly declares, that human beings have freedom, are marviersous and splendid creatures in their own right. Therefore, as human beings, as individuals, they should focus on their value and free will.

“We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine” (Mirandola, 8)

How strikingly similar it is. Human beings are above machinery, above tools, and, of course, above AI.

The fundamental aspect is this: as a human being with free will, how can we explore and discover something unqiue about ourselves? Something with emotional depth, authenticity, genuine creativity, and originality by working his own way, instead of trapped in self-made rat race.

As a developer drawing from my 13 years of experiences, by observing both myself and other devlopers from the trenches, I’ve noticed that some developer(include me) can’t avoid falling into the trap of identifing too much with a specific language/techstack. To learn something new, even totally contrary to what someone knew, it would be a process like someone can’t fully listen when somebody speaks, because their mind is cluttered with inner chatter and jugements. It is like a cup full of water, you can’t fill in more water. Similary, the mind has become jammed and is not able to be flexiable and fluid to in taking in new stuff, slowingly becomes dead water, resulting in stagnation and fixation on technical approaches.

A programming language is worth learning if it is different enough from all you already know to challenge your mind, exposing you to new abstractions. That reminds me of Closure programming language when learning Java back in early days.

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Coding is not just about being alone with computers; it overlaps with one’s other parts of life. The code developer write definitely need get a good understanding of machine and its fundamentals - how operating system(CPUs), kernel, system calls works - and make best out of it by using algorithm, tool or design, while also the logic should be simple and straightforward for people to understand. For example, common pattern would be to sacrifice space for time, introduce redundance for speed. When to take compromise or not. And the ability with experience to identify fundamental feature and a non fundamental one, to put designer’s shoes, to think in a bigger scope, actually saves a lots time and unnecessary complexity. One can’t preplan too much at the beginning, at the same thing, one can’t afford to do no plan/design at all with his experience and logical analysis.

Counterintuitively, writing the code to implement is somewhat the easy task. The hard task is understanding what to do and in what way to do it.

It’s also about balance, more than just logic—it’s an art. To be agile is to embrace changes, cultiviate a hunch knowing when to rely on veteran experiences and when to think outside the box. One common scenario is that when we write code, to some point, we got stuck.Much like creative progress, I found one could try following tips: First, pull yourself away from that little screen to explain to colleagues or someone else. This forces you to step out of whatever context you’re in, think from a high level, and start with the basics. Second, go out, take a walk, have a cup of tea or coffee, do some stretching, etc., and do it wholeheartedly, without the worries or tanglings of the previous problem.

It’s possible that someone could gain different perspectives when returning to the desk. Many times, when I try to articulate my problem and what’s my stragtegy, suddenly I understand why. Give a try to trust that the universe and life could shed some light somehow. So, when you feel stuck, try pausing and stepping out of that space to try something different.

Programming is art in certain way.

I believe that programming and life is intricately intertwined. No one could just keep consuming, and leave no time for digestion; No one could just keep multitasking, and leave no time for singetasking. In order to get most out of our reasoning, logic analysis and decision-making, one seemingly unconventional approach is to suspend those desires and thoughts temporarily at times. I mean, to create a gap, a space for it to let the analytic mind rest and let raw ability of connection to reflect itself. It is in that space, for instance, times of doing nothing, where by social standards our behavior it might look childish, non-productive, weird and meaningless, the mind won’t be kept bombarded, and brain has time to cleanup the working memory, and universe has a chance for its magic to happen, therefore keep a high-level of efficiency and quality of our congnitive function and be a state of inviting the peace and creativity.

With that said, If someone have one’s mindset prepared and got some content someone want to express, the cutting-edge technology like AI can open up numerous possibilities. Prompt engineering allows tweaking input for detailed and sepcific request, treating it as if assigned a particular role to get the optimal results. Asisstants finne-tune and transform into your personal agents, while tools like AutoGen and LangChain extends LLM with external components, making creation of LLM-driven applications more conveniently.

(ps: Every time, I try to write my first shitty drafts on paper, so that I can revisit and make adjustments. When I type them into computer, I can omit details I found trivial in the process and just keep only the essentials. This forces me to concentrate on the content, without worrying about style, such as deciding on the font size from the begining.)

There is a delicate balance between humanity and tools. Tools won’t steal the thunder of the content; instead, they assist in delivering and expressing it in a natural way, where the care and empathy of a human being are best presented. The uniqueness of content is embedded in the form, facilitated by new tools like AI. With those tools, the content could reach out to more people, maybe that is one message from universe so that harmony could be echoed and vibrated in a bigger scale.

On one side, there is the human; on the other, there are the tools. If tools like AI can lower barriers for knowledge sharing, it means the status of humans is actually elevated and levelled up, much like what happened in the Humanism movement.

It is the human, in the midst of a constant influx of information, who takes time to be willing to be bored, alone with his thoughts and feelings, and digs himself out on his own, that can truly make the best use of the tools and information without being drowned by them in our time. As what substance imparts infinite attributes to Spinoza, to get into that deep primordial state helps us to not be blinded by the diversities of forms on the surface, as it is the source and origin of all forms, hence to express it in the most natural way without being limited or overwhelmed by the tools and styles - make something wonderful.

One name just popped into my head as I’m writing this part. That is Jimi Hendrix - a combination of creativity and application of technology. The guy who pioneered the use of all the possibilities of the electric guitar as an instrument, an all-encompassing genius, shows us how to use technology to explore, broaden, and expand one’s creative potentials and take expression(guitar) of one’s life(music) into uncharted territories.

“I want my music to go inside the soul of a person. You know, for me it’s colours. I want people to feel the music the same way I see it. It’s just colours. That’s it. The rest is just painted with a little science fiction here and there”. (Jimi: All Is By My Side)

I wonder what Jimi Hendrix would say in this AI era. But I guess I know his answer. That unique and human in quality, the intuition, the raw imagination and direct feeling from life, to express one’s inner voice/serenity, where that limitless goes beyond limitation, is really what matters utmost. Protect that inner world, that purity.

Interestingly, there is a statement from an ancient Chinese art critics, Chang Huai’s Treatise on Chinese Painting :

Only he who reaches Reality can follow Nature’s spontaneity and be aware of the subtlety of things, and his mind will be absorbed by them. His brush will secretly be in harmony with movement and quiescence and all forms will issue forth. Appearances and substance are caught in one motion as the life breath reverberates through them. He who is ignorant of Reality becomes a slave of passion and his nature will be distorted by externalities. He sinks into confusion and is disturbed by thoughts of gain and loss. He is nothing more than a prisoner of brush and ink. How can he speak of genuine works of Heaven and Earth?


A crisis, on the other hand, could lead me to have doubts and evoke a multitude of questions about myself, serving as a great guide. I’ve found that if I don’t reject negative feelings or try to hold on to positive feelings, I’m in a better position to receive the subtle messages the universe. Like what Horace’s Epistle to his teacher Maecenas where he clamins not to be devoted to any particular sect but is rather an eclectic by nature (source: Nullius in verba wikipedia).

Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, – quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.

(“No one is addicted to swearing by the words of the teacher, – to which whenever the storm takes me, I am carried away as a guest.”)

I mean it’s always there, and it’s just that I rejected the inner child and closed off the inner light, either voluntarily or involuntarily, turning to seek validation from outside for a long time. I put up an invisible chain a shackle on myself. Time to put down.

In this stage, I feel that life is more about art and the subconscious than just being a logical/rational calculator and conscious(The Matrix). That spontaneous reflection, that harmony, that fusion of subjective and objective reality maybe mostly does not take place in the conscious realm through a logical process or any artificial effort. Still, it doesn’t need to be mystic, abstract, or spiritual; just something we can access in our ordinary daily routines. It is inside us. We’re all empowed to play, create, connect and heal.

Aren’t we all still children inside our hearts? Maybe the kid/child is our greatest teacher from universe. Wow, my friend, let us be reminded: we already have this greatest teacher inside us.

To play, and make living itself an art, as artist of life.

I want to end with quotes from Ernest Becker’s «The Denial of Death»:

Childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men. … [N]eed for legitimate foolishness.

[T]he only secure truth men have is that which they themselves create and dramatize; to live is to play at the meaning of life.