Don’t study STEM, don’t learn to code, don’t work in IT

Today’s contrarian advice is as following: Don’t study STEM, don’t learn to code and don’t work in IT. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, if you’re old or young, if you’re black, yellow, red or white. My advice applies to everyone. There are good reasons I’m offering you this advice.

To start with, money is not the most important thing in the world. We overvalue money in our era, because we’re reaching the end of economic growth. A degree in STEM will make your life more comfortable, that’s true. You can buy a house in a good neighborhood, you don’t have to worry about paying off your college debt and you won’t become unemployed.

However, there are things more important in life than money. IT will corrupt your soul. Computers as we know them have been around for about fifty years, not counting that weird thing Babbage and Lord Byron’s daughter were screwing around with. Your body and brain were not designed to tinker with computers. You have to be stunted in other ways, to become a good computer jockey. In the words of Don Colacho: “In order to make the technician devote all his attention to his job, industrial society, without disfiguring his skull, compresses his brain.”

Computer jockeys my dear reader, are stunted people. The computer jockey listens to repetitive techno music he refers to as “minimal”. It soothes him as he writes the stories that tell the computer what to do. The computer jockey has no great ground-breaking thoughts. He’s a simple man, with simple ideas. He is dogmatic. Computers deal with rigid absolute truths, so he too has learned to see the world in the form of rigid absolute truths. He looks up to other computer jockeys, who run some prominent open source project. He adheres to some sort of arbitrary creed he refers to as “libertarian”. It tends to amount to the idea that technology inevitably makes the world better and whatever people are willing to pay money for must be what the world benefits from.

Now, you might imagine you’ll escape becoming a real computer jockey. You’ll learn a very niche skill and spend 32 hours a week telling a computer what to do. At age 30 your investments will have grown exponentially and you’ll retire early and devote your time to your family and learning genuinely valuable knowledge. At age 35, you’ll insist with a straight face that you haven’t got a clue how to make a computer say “hello world” anymore. Newsflash: That’s not going to happen. If you join IT, you become IT.

You can’t gaze into the abyss, without the abyss gazing back at you. You think you’ll be the exception. You will climb into his underground lair, beat the digital demiurg in a staring contest and wander away with his treasure. But as you jump into a chasm, you are welcomed by the sight of a thousand corpses, the remnants of men you recognize. Brave men who had the life sucked out of them, whose individuality was sacrificed as they became little more than nourishment for this evil blight. What makes you think that you will be different, that you will escape?

To start with, a mediocre computer jockey doesn’t get anywhere in life. You have to keep up with the other robots, or you end up working long hours, for little pay. You’ll maintain other people’s old projects, rather than building your own, which will turn you into the laughing stock of the computer jockey pecking order. So, you’re going to dive in and transform into what you practice.

Like a disgusting invasive slime mold on a dirty petri dish, the part of your brain that governs cold mathematical logic will expand and grow to dominate your personality. Your colleagues will offer you soylent and insist to you that it has all the nutrients a human body needs. “Why eat, why go to the supermarket, why cook a meal, if you can just drink soylent?” The machine-brains will insist to you. You will say no the first two times, but on the third try you will accept it. A part of you just died.

There are a few radical notions we have to go over now, to get you to understand why this is so bad. To start with, all of life is an art. It genuinely doesn’t matter what your net worth is at an age where your third chin covers your clavicles and your nose has more hair than your scalp. Life is already over at that point, you already lost. There won’t be a wikipedia page that says “at age 70 he could afford a really impressive boat” about you.

Young people shape the world. Political movements are led by young people, art that gives insight into the human condition is created by young people and companies that change the world are started by the young. The old derive their dignity from what they did when they were young and how they reflect on it today. If they put numbers into a spreadsheet or wrote computer code, there’s not a whole lot of dignity for them.

Another notion I wish to state is as following: All knowledge you can gain in college that’s useful in your career is knowledge you should go without. I support the right of young people to live a normal life without having to attend college, a right that’s increasingly under assault today. However, those young people who choose to go to college should remind themselves that life is not a game of material acquisition.

There are a lot of genuinely valuable things you can learn in college, though most are things you could learn outside college as well. You can learn French, so that you can read Madame Bovary in its original language. You can study history and read Pico della Mirandola’s oration on the dignity of man. You can study English and fall in love with one of the Brontë sisters. You can study zoology and discover all the mesmerizing beauty that predates our own existence.

On the other hand, you can learn how to code in Laravel. You can sit in a class with other boys who play first person shooters together when they’re not coding. You can ask yourself whether you should try your chances with the only girl in class, who always wears the same hoodie. You can build the websites nobody needs, you can perpetuate the cycle of cultural implosion, you can blind yourself to all the things life has to offer that can’t be objectively measured.

The things that are beautiful in life are not things that get paid well. The things that are paid well are things that are ugly. Be strong. Choose poverty. The aristocrats of the soul hide their inner wealth away from the world in this era, an era governed by machine-men, computer jockeys and techno-tinkerers who wouldn’t recognize beauty if it was staring them in the face.

Read Percy Shelley, read W. B. Yeats, read William Blake, read Sara Teasdale, read Sylvia Plath and accept the consequences. There is no shame in making latté art, believe me when I tell you there are far more shameful jobs out there than you can imagine. Your poverty is a crown you should wear with pride. Follow your passions and tell the world that you accept your life will be fucked up because of it.

I don’t want to live in a world filled with computer jockeys, but that’s what economic forces now encourage. The only way for an average Indian man to win a ticket to paradise and move to a first world nation is to learn how to become a computer jockey. An Indian man who becomes an expert on Hermeticism, medieval grimoires, Buddhist theology, or anything else that’s genuinely interesting, stands no genuine chance of leaving his own country of birth.

The solution however, is to get rid of computer jockeys. What should you do if you read this article and realize you became a computer jockey yourself, a number-pinching soylent-drinking spiritually empty automaton? Step zero is to stop pretending that you enjoy coding. You don’t enjoy coding. If you tell me you like coding, I don’t believe you. The next step is to turn in your two weeks notice. I know, that’s easier said than done. Gather the strength, look for an escape hatch. Perhaps you can rob a bank in anticipation.

Step two is to deprogram yourself. Seek out friends who are not computer jockeys. Turn off your computer in the evening. Force yourself to do something else. Go to the library, borrow a book. It doesn’t have to be literature. You can read philosophy. You can read psychological literature, from Carl Jung or Marie-Louise von Franz. There’s an entire world out there, a non-binary world, where words have a meaning that can’t be translated into foreign languages, where beauty can’t be captured in a photograph, where things happen for reasons that are not the product of deterministic mathematical forces. If you allow the world to have meaning it will.

There is always hope. It’s not too late for you. Miracles happen. People in wheelchairs have walked again, frogs rain from the sky sometimes, computer jockeys can wake up one day and realize they have a soul again. There is a fire inside your heart that still burns, a purity that can not be defiled. Don’t surrender, don’t give up, you still know deep down that this is not what you are and never will be.

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