Law of the Instrument

Why you'll never use this in real life.

October 29, 2015

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Abraham Maslow

This is referred to as The Law of the Instrument. It follows that if you come across a screw you'd better have a screwdriver, or at least you should be aware that you should use one.

I'm never going to use this in real life.

  • You're probably right.
  • You're probably going to do a half ass job of learning it.
  • When the day comes where you could solve a problem using this:
    • You might not remember this.
    • You might not realize you should use this.
    • You might not be skilled enough to use this.
    • You might take a more basic approach than using this, resulting in an inferior solution.
    • You might just avoid solving the problem altogether.
    • You'll probably give up and do something more in line with your knowledge and skill level.

What I'm saying is: Maybe you should have payed more attention during linear algebra class.

Good news, it's not too late: MIT OCW Linear Algebra.

This is directed at myself as much as it is anyone else.

To reach our potential we have to push ourselves to study more advanced methods, and we have to try to apply them to solving problems. This could mean studying formal cs, calculus, linear algebra, compiler design, low-level languages, etc.

Dylan Vann
Software developer living in Toronto 🇨🇦 Thailand 🇹🇭.
Focused on Node | GraphQL | React | React Native.

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