Writing is software for human behavior

26 April 2021
26 Apr 2021

I consider writing (words) and writing (software) to be my two most proficient creative skills. There are many parallels between the two – in most situations, both take the form of writing letters down onto some document that gets interpreted by someone or something else. Both take time, require extensive pre-writing preparation, editing, and rewriting to be great, and both are skills with such creative and technical depth that it takes a lifetime to master, if at all.

Software gives you influence over computers. Computers are cheap, fast, deterministic, and omnipresent. You can wrangle software into doing things faster than you can, halfway across the world, with complete control. But the reach of power that computers have in the world is extremely limited. Building with software lets you build personal tools, automated business systems, and so forth. But software doesn’t let you move people, and moving people is the most effective way to get things done in the real world.

For that, I think writing is the closest thing we have. Writing well lets you move people and ideas, and it’s the most scalable such medium. Just as a well-written piece of software can run on hundreds of thousands of machines, amplifying your productivity; a well-crafted piece of writing can move hundreds of thousands of people into collective action or care. It can amplify your own ideas and motivations by thousands of times, but instead of acting through cold deterministic metal agents of electricity, you’re now acting in concert with other people, who can build on your ideas and make real, significant events happen.

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