When you use a tool, it shapes you. I think about this often. Some tools make the user smarter and stronger; other tools make the user dumb, weak, or dependent.

Dr. Who makes this point about guns:

Have you noticed the way people’s intelligence capabilities decline sharply the minute they start waving guns around?

The Doctor would probably have an easier time if he just shot his way out of situations. But then the show would be (even more) boring.

We can often frame this as a choice between (a) convenience and (b) some other future reward. Delayed gratification, in some sense. This way of thinking has informed my decisions on a number of issues:

  • bicycle vs. car?
  • Linux vs. Windows (or Mac)?
  • Vim vs. IDE?

In each of these choices, I give up some amount of convenience with the expectation that it will shape me in desirable ways. Choosing bikes over cars makes me tougher, happier, and reduces the amount of bulls*** activities I can even consider doing. Choosing Linux avails me to the best free and open source software and cuts out the possibility of gaming. Vim teaches me to view my code as a collection of text files, and allows me to develop them on practically any server1.

\( \blacksquare\)

  1. I’m not opposed to using IDEs in an enterprise setting, where the codebase is massive.