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Jesse Sanford

Jesse is a software engineer and anthropologist. He works as a senior developer at Cloud City, a progressive software consultancy based in San Francisco, and has been developing Ruby and JavaScript apps for over a decade. He holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from Berkeley, where in addition to ethnography he studied cognitive science under the direction of George Lakoff. He’s also maintained a regular mindfulness meditation practice for over 20 years.

When All the World Is Code

What state of mind are we in when we’re coding? What is “flow”? What, if anything, can nerd stereotypes tell us about what we’re doing when we code? If I spend a long period of time focused on one activity, does that affect how I engage with the world offscreen?

There is a classic argument that coding prioritizes instrumental reason over empathy or even motor neurons over mirror neurons. In the Ruby community, our collective devotion to pairing might lead people to the opposite conclusion: that focused, appreciative inquiry, so helpful for pairing, might also be a skillful way to engage the world beyond the screen. Is there any truth to either view?

This talk reviews contemporary research in neuroscience, cognition and anthropology to answer these questions and ask what we actually know about how coding affects the brain and social problem-solving. What does the growth of these new practices suggest for humanity and our prospects of getting along with each other and the planet?