Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Immediate Feedback

A lot of things we do tend to be fairly abstract in the sense that there is no immediate relationship between our actions and the results. We accept that is the case when we raise children, work as teachers, put effort into becoming more educated or do things like limiting our food/alcohol intake and increasing physical activity in hopes of being healthier.

The challenge is that in our modern world we sometimes find too many things we do in our work and our leisure time (if we focus on online activities) to be abstractions or distractions.

If you were a subsistence farmer and made a mistake in your crop planning, planting, cultivation, or harvesting you might end up starving. If you were a cave person and got too close to the Saber Tooth cat you might be lunch.

It doesn't have to be anything that dramatic though - if you are sewing a shirt, knitting a sweater, cooking a meal, working on a car or motorcycle - you get pretty immediate feedback that what you are doing is or isn't working. I think that appeals to people - you don't have to wait and wonder if that email you sent did what you wanted - you can see you knit one sleeve longer than the other, you stripped that bolt - you burnt the pie.

If you interact directly with another human (especially the younger type humans) you will get immediate feedback.

If you pet or play games with a dog or a cat - you get immediate feedback.

Individual sports like golf, bowling, fishing have that same sort of appeal where what you do has an immediate impact on the results. Not so much a team sport where the team wins or loses - although there is certainly the opportunity for one person to have a positive or negative impact on the game (sort of like work for some people) - but you can't say one person won or lost a football, basketball or hockey game.

One of the appeals of gambling is that you either win or lose a bet, and thereby validate your actions, although money in itself is a bit of an abstraction in some context.

You can take it up a notch with other activities like bicycling, kayaking, mountain climbing, motorcycle riding where the risks are higher and you either manage risk - or one day your luck runs out.

I think it's all about wanting to be alive while you're living and know that what you do has an impact. So go bake a pie or ride a bike or talk to a little kid or something (talking to myself again...)