What about sex?


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jul 17, 2011 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


What about Sex?


“What about Sex?” the woman sitting across from me at the dinner table asked. I felt my face start to flush. She was about my age, and fairly attractive. I, of course, am unmarried, and therefore “available”. However, her husband was sitting next to me......


“She is afraid that these young people who are in front of computers the whole day, only communicating by Facebook and the Internet do not have the social contact that people need”, her husband explained. “She wants to know if they have 'significant others'.”


I explained to her that things are different now than forty years ago when I started with computers. Twenty-five years ago when I was working for Digital Equipment Corporation the engineers would often send email to the person in the next cubicle rather than shouting over the cubicle wall. Their explanation of why they just did not talk to the person in the next cubicle was “I do not know if they are there and will hear me, but I know they will receive my email.”


Time have changed, however, and most of the young “computer people” that I meet today have multiple interests, and interact with lots of people both over the Internet and in person.


I could see that I still had not convinced her, so I gave another opinion. “Imagine it was many years ago, and you were a young person living on a farm in the mid-western part of the United States. You might spend your entire youth without seeing fine art, or be able to learn about really current events. The Internet brings you the ability to see the masters of art and to see current events as they unfold.”


She began to soften a bit on the issue.


“It is true,” I went on, “that some people are 'addicted' to the Internet, but there are some people 'addicted' to television, and I think that the Internet is better than television since it allows the user to talk back, to interact with other people rather than just 'be entertained'.”


“Watching television”, she said, “is something you do as a group.”


“Once upon a time, that might have been true.”, I answered, “We watched television as a family and we negotiated as to which programs we watched, but in the United States these days each person has a TV in their bedroom, and there is no negotiation as to which programs you watch, each person going off to watch their own programs.”


I talked to her about conferences like Penguicon, where people get together to discuss free software, science fiction, fantasy and other things. I attend a “non-conference” every year called “Open Beach” where software developers get together with the specific goal of NOT talking about software (free or otherwise), but just meeting each other “face to face”, meeting each other's families, and enjoying the beach and fine seafood of Florianopolis, Brazil.


I talked to her of the Free Software people who work on “Hacking for Something Better”, which try to help non-profit groups develop the software they need. These software developers may be spending time “in front of monitors”, but they recognize the good they do for society, and the many other projects going on with Free Software.


From my own work experience I have done many things other than programming, simply because I wanted to exercise different parts of my training and personality. While all of my jobs have been related to the computer industry, they ranged from strictly programming to product management and technical marketing, all of which required me to interact with people, and use parts of my training which I thought I would never use when I was receiving it.


I thought it was very appropriate when, the next day, I heard Julien Fourgeaud, who bears the title of “Bad Piggy Bank Manager and Magician” for Rovio Mobile Ltd. (think “Angry Birds”) telling the Campus Party attendees that they need to learn things outside their main focus. He told them that they will never know what they will need to get through life, and often at the time they need the information it is too late to learn it for that need. I resonated with that thought, since I questioned when I would need certain courses from my undergraduate education, but at the age of 61 I realize I have used everything that my professors tried to teach me.


Life is more than Free Software, and even Free Culture. Take time to “smell the roses”....to interact with other people....even to.....


Carpe Diem!


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