First an excerpt from Brain Pickings on how to get rich: Paul Graham on money vs. wealth and then a book review on Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham.
“The moral challenge and the grim problem we face,” Alan Watts argued in his superb 1970 essay on the difference between money and wealth, “is that the life of affluence and pleasure requires exact discipline and high imagination.” Hardly anywhere is this urgency manifested more vibrantly than in startup culture. So argues English programmer and writer Paul Graham — who went to art school studying painting after finishing grad school in computer science, and whose timelessly wonderful meditation on prestige vs. purpose remains a must-read — in an essay titled “How to Make Wealth,” found in the 2004 anthology Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age (public library). Echoing Watts, Graham defines a startup as “a way to compress your whole working life into a few years” and begins his exploration of “how to make money by creating wealth and getting paid for it” with an essential distinction between the two:
If you want to create wealth, it will help to understand what it is. Wealth is not the same thing as money. Wealth is as old as human history. Far older, in fact; ants have wealth. Money is a comparatively recent invention.
Wealth is the fundamental thing. Wealth is stuff we want: food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, travel to interesting places, and so on. You can have wealth without having money. If you had a magic machine that could on command make you a car or cook you dinner or do your laundry, or do anything else you wanted, you wouldn’t need money. Whereas if you were in the middle of Antarctica, where there is nothing to buy, it wouldn’t matter how much money you had.
Wealth is what you want, not money. But if wealth is the important thing, why does everyone talk about making money? It is a kind of shorthand: money is a way of moving wealth, and in practice they are usually interchangeable. But they are not the same thing, and unless you plan to get rich by counterfeiting, talking about making money can make it harder to understand how to make money.
Money is a side effect of specialization. In a specialized society, most of the things you need, you can’t make for yourself. If you want a potato or a pencil or a place to live, you have to get it from someone else.
See full article by Brain Pickings
Hackers & Painters: Description
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham.
“The computer world is like an intellectual Wild West, in which you can shoot anyone you wish with your ideas, if you’re willing to risk the consequences. ” –from Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, by Paul Graham
We are living in the computer age, in a world increasingly designed and engineered by computer programmers and software designers, by people who call themselves hackers. Who are these people, what motivates them, and why should you care?
Consider these facts: Everything around us is turning into computers. Your typewriter is gone, replaced by a computer. Your phone has turned into a computer. So has your camera. Soon your TV will. Your car was not only designed on computers, but has more processing power in it than a room-sized mainframe did in 1970. Letters, encyclopedias, newspapers, and even your local store are being replaced by the Internet.
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, by Paul Graham, explains this world and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Graham takes readers on an unflinching exploration into what he calls “an intellectual Wild West.”
The ideas discussed in this book will have a powerful and lasting impact on how we think, how we work, how we develop technology, and how we live. Topics include the importance of beauty in software design, how to make wealth, heresy and free speech, the programming language renaissance, the open-source movement, digital design, internet startups, and more.
Hackers & Painters: Reviews
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age is an astonishingly good collection of essays. In lesser hands, any of the 15 essays here could have been a book by itself — each packs more content than you can find in a typical one idea business book, or a typical one technology book for geeks. Yet his book is not dense or difficult: Graham’s graceful style is a pleasure to read.
But what is it? Is it a business book, or a technical book? A bit of both actually, with a pinch of social criticism thrown in. There are essays on business — particularly startups — and essays on programming languages and how to combat spam, and one delightful one on the difficulty being a nerd in American public schools.
My favorite essay of the 15 — and picking a favorite is itself a challenge — is called “What you can’t say”. It is about heresy, not historical Middle Ages burned-at-the-stake heresy, but heresy today in 2004. And if you believe nothing is heretical today, that no idea today is so beyond the pale that it would provoke a purely emotional reaction to its very utterance, then read some of the other reviews. Graham’s idea is not that all heresies are worth challenging publicly, or even that all heresies are wrong, but merely that there is value is being aware of what is heretical, so one can notice where the blind spots are.
I’m an experiensed software developer and to me reading this book was absolutely refreshing. Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age won’t teach you anything in particular but it will feed your mind and curiosity great deal – just one needs after years of office work.
This book is a collection of assorted essays, each covering some more or less software-related topic, like history of arts (huh ?). Political correctness, design of things, nerds’ life and simply ways of life made their way into this marvellous book.
Some author’s points are controversial, while to some I couldn’t agree more. The magic part is that the author’s judgements are based on not just what he knows or believes, but also on what he feels for no particular reason, and this is the approach I fully appreciate. Only the best books make your mind feel free, and this is one of them.