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Psyche Death or Growth Death


"Psyche Death" or "Growth Death" (the Neo-Tech terms) means that a person continues to live physically, but his mind is dying: he becomes more and more cynical and less excited and enthusiastic about life; less and less happy; becomes less and less proficient; and also is capable of feeling less and less love (romantic or otherwise) and other positive emotions.

It often occurs even before the body has fully matured. In the Technion, I've known someone who already had psyche death in his mid-twenties. On the other hand, I've been corresponding with an 80 years-old programmer, who still has a living psyche, and is otherwise very enthusiastic and excited about life. (He's still affected by his old age and old legacy practices, but is nonetheless still productive.)

So what are the implications of Psyche Death? Moshe Bar tells about it in this Slashdot interview:

I am studying law because at my age I already see how much faster younger programmers are than me. Back when I was in my early twenties nobody could beat me at programming. Nowadays, when I sit next to people like Andrea Arcangeli, I realize that programming, too, (even considering the advantage of experience) is for the young. Perhapes extreme programming, ie good quality, high speed programming, should be considered a sport and not an art or science or a skill. Since, I do not see myself being a programmer at 60 years (which is more than years from now), I deduced that I have to find a new job between then and now.

Again, while it is possible that one write code more slowly when one is younger, it does not mean that one should completely refrain from writing code when one is older. Plus, lately I've spent a weekend working on Test-Run, and ended up with about 3,000 added or removed lines, which I felt really good about. And moreover, even a former programmer can probably become a good manager or a team leader, for a software company, but without good experience in coding he probably won't be a good manager. And you don't need a law diploma for that.

I know a programmer who just turned 50 who I'm almost certain has a dying growth. He tends to be cynical, keeps finding (wrong-headed, IMO) faults in good ideas I have, and often tends to get his priorities wrong. Last year, he permanently and abruptly quit from helping with the organisation of August Penguin, because he felt that the movie that was prepared for the event, should have been subtitled before it was released to the public, instead of after the fact by volunteers. I tried to tell him that while accessibility for the disabled was important, it was relatively orthogonal to promoting Open Source software in Israel or elsewhere. Both causes were important, and having a feud (or "Brogez" in Hebrew) because of a silly (3-minutes length) movie, that is just a nice bonus, and not something integral to the conference.

It's very sad, and like I said, unnecessary. Now for a positive, non-Psyche Death example: the programmer in his 80's. We've been co-operating on a Freecell program he wrote, to which I wanted to integrate Freecell Solver. We exchanged dozens of emails, and at one point even had a virtual Instant-Messaging mode. It took us a lot of time to integrate FCS into his program due to some of their incompatibilities, but we were successful. Since then, he and I exchanged some bios, and then ended up discussing philosophy, politics and religion. He seems very lively, excited, and enthusiastic, despite his old age, and the fact he's already a grandfather.

He's been reading many books, which he has been ordering from I recommended he read Julian Jaynes' "Bicameral Mind" book and he eventually did. ( He buys a lot of books about history, or history science. )

Interacting with him, has been very inspiring for me. He admitted to me that "his brain does not operate as fast as it used to", and I could tell his programming practices are sub-optimal in today's standards. He's been around, and old habits often die hard, and he is no longer really making a living off programming.

So Psyche death is unnecessary. And psyche death is also not permanent - one can easily reverse it by reading this entry and the Neo-Tech original. I'm not claiming Psyche Death people are necessarily evil. While all evil people have Psyche death, most people with a dying growth are still good people who are unnecessarily cynical about life.

I told my 50 years-old friend several times that he should really read the Neo-Tech article, and he told me that he did not have the time for that (even though it's not very long). And to quote Q2 from "We, the Living Dead":

Busy people are unproductive. We are very productive and so we're never busy.

Being too busy is another indication that you do not have a fully growing psyche. Gandhi said "Live as if you were going to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were going to live forever.". However, it seems too many people mis-understand this quote. From what I know of Gandhi, he was almost never too busy.

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