I'm just a medic

I work in medicine. I spend my days thinking about SpO2, RR, the Loop of Henle, how oxygen gets in and out of the blood stream, what kind of medication does what, and more. That's my day. My day is talking, probing, testing, and fixing... on humans, not machines.

In my scant time off, I surf. I sail. I hike. I drink and laugh with friends. Sometimes I just sit on the balcony and read a book, or flip through the NEJM, which (like most of us), I just collect to look more medic. Anything away from being inside a room, anything to get my blood pumping, my pores sweating, and my brain off the question if taking someone off doxorubicin and onto prednisone is a good idea.

Training Days

All this means that I don't have time or inclination to maintain code, websites, or hack functionality.

Sometimes it's fun. Hacking humans is not unlike hacking machines, critical thinking applied to creative questions. There's enjoyment in spending a weekend setting up a working Arch Linux system, diving deep into new software, or coaxing functionality out of a website (like write.as). But it's too close to my day job to be the off switch I need.

Coders tend to forget this. That there is a world between the ultimate freedom of writing your own and the walled garden (or skid row) of Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress. We are, indeed, the ignored ones. Too needy to be satisfied with prepackaged solutions, too busy and too much in want for something completely different to do in our spare time, to roll our own or hack someone else's.

In medicine there's an art about this. We deal with prepackaged approaches, applied to vastly different individuals. We learn, early, that “my way or the highway” will get someone killed, that there is no such thing as “the solution.” Instead, we learn to find the commonalities, address them first, and then, from the beginning of our work, create means and ways to solve the differences without adding more work to each case.

In code, this understanding is lacking. No one demonstrates this better than Apple's “Uncle Steve knows best” mindset. Apple managed to do us one better, convincing millions of humans that not only does Uncle Steve know best, anyone not being in agreement is dumb, underedcuated, not enlightened enough. And, miracle of marketing, that a standardized, forced, solution is, indeed, the square peg in a round hole.

The way out of this, in medicine as it is in code, is available: interchangeability. Facebook's Beelzebub, the ability to write once and distribute, to not lock writers or readers into one silo. To, from the ground up, design solutions to never expect to provide one service, but to offer services that can be easily mashed up, integrated, and interchanged with others'. To Facebook, the idea to offer a like/comment system but allow anyone to swap in any other like/comment system, or to weigh all image hosts and video hosts equally, not pushing local content first, is abhorrent. It keeps readers, writers, and ultimately user data out of Facebook's grasp.

But to places that want to challenge this status quo, that want to be more medicine and less Apple, more Usenet/Mastodon and less Facebook/Twitter, this is the only way forward.

There's financial and future proof incentive in being this way, but it's slower. The German Democratic Republic, GDR, managed to lock its users behind the “anti-fascist wall” for 40 years, but eventually freedom won over coerced presence. And, numbers rarely lie, prosperity and presence increased. Opening walls, letting people travel freely and allowing outside influence in, while bringing one's own solutions into the marketplace of ideas, created opportunities, it didn't destroy them.

Me, I am just a medic. I fix people's broken bodies and sometimes soothe their ailing minds. I don't have time to write code, don't want to spend days doing all this. But I still am a wanderer between those solutions out there, hoping to one day find someone, something, that doesn't sacrifice freedom and extensibility on the altar of Steve knows Best.