After almost a year of blogging in Hebrew, I’ve decided it’s time to move on to the big league. Too many interesting topics just don’t have a big enough audience in my mother tongue, and if I’m going to be part of the interesting and relevant discussion about these issues, English is the way to go.
So, for all you new readers, who am I?
My name is Shai Shapira. I’m a computer programmer and writer, originally from Israel, but have been moving from place to place constantly for many years now. I’ve worked on information systems and gaming in the past (and still some in the present), but my real passion is to use programming and other engineering skills to make the world a better place, and to advance human knowledge. Which is part of what I’m going to be talking about in this blog.
I’m fascinated with understanding how the world works. My Hebrew blog focuses mostly on politics and economy, which I love to study from an engineering point of view – understanding the facts and numbers that make everything run. While I try to do more observation and less debate, I’m definitely not impartial – I’m a staunch supporter of liberty, peace and democracy (of course, all three words have different meaning for different people, you’ll need to read me for a while to understand what I mean by them), and that is often the lens through which I observe the political world.
Other than the human world, I’m fascinated even more with the natural world. Every stone, leaf or insect around us is a complex machine, and I want to understand them. Many people like to approach nature in awe, talking about the majestic power of it; I prefer to be amazed by how rational and simple things become when understood to a low anough level. Reaching this low level where things start to make sense requires a lot of learning, and one of my goals is to reach and simplify that learning.
I’m fascinated with technology, but not the popular kind; I’ve learned the satisfaction of making something (in my case, computer code) and seeing it working by itself probably before I was 10 years old. My interest in computing, as well as in physical machines, has only grown stronger since, but is getting increasingly separate from the commercial world of “technology”, whose trends seem to me ridiculous at best, frightening at worst. I tend to assume that one day, I’ll be the information age equivalent of the Hollywood archetype of the middle-aged man working in his garage on a decades old car, insisting to fix and create things by himself rather than use the commercial options. And hopefully I’ll be better at it.
Most of all, I’m fascinated with the process of knowledge acquisition itself. Our time on Earth is too limited to learn all the things I would like to learn, but only if we assume our current way of learning is the only one. One of my ancestors from 10,000 years ago would probably think they would need all their lives to learn all the information we currently learn by the end of elementary school; Different ways of representing, acquiring and using knowledge makes it much easier for us. And I strongly believe there is more to be done for that, and our descendants will someday be amazed by our ignorance. My prototype is language learning; Becoming a hyperpolyglot serves as my testing ground for understanding how to acquire information more efficiently, using information theory, mnemonics, or any other tool I can harness for it.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading.