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The earliest of beginnings are so tiny and abstract that they seem insignificant at times. They are completely invisible and have neither shape nor form. You can't see an early beginning - everything you can see or imagine is long past its origin. Yet such beginnings are critically important to our existence and daily lives.

Beginnings emerge from chaotic abstraction. If it weren't for the evidence of them, we'd have no reason to say they existed at all. Even when thinking about them directly it's hard to say they exist in any concrete sense.

Your mind churns away beneath the surface and some time later you put your pen to paper and write the first note of your symphony. Without that first note, there will never be a symphony. What happens between the churn and the action? A mess of chemical and electrical signals according to neuroscience. A whole bunch of new connections, reinforced pathways, and extracted patterns according to cognitive science. Weeks of dithering according to your spouse.

A symphony is a significant beginning and yet the first effect is a single, tiny, concrete step. If you were sitting on the couch contemplating turning on the TV, you'd dither a fair bit less and then grab the remote. Still a single first step, and still an underlying abstraction. If you want to look deeper, even the simple beginnings of our lives are composed of others, on and on, into chaotic abstraction. But that's not the point here.

Consider the smallest of beginnings, otherwise known as a general beginning. First there is an abstraction from which anything might emerge, then there is a concrete effect, and thus between them there was a phase change.

Diagrammed in style as such:

Diagram of a beginning

Where exactly is the beginning? It is all of those things, but none of them individually. The concrete effect needs a beginning, we have to wait until the abstraction produces something, and the phase change is inferred. Beginnings are henceforth defined as the whole of that process but in the narrowest possible sense - some minimal abstraction which leads to a single concrete effect.

Beginnings and Problems

The source of your life's problems is too few beginnings of one sort or another. Problems are frictions that slow you down; beginnings are the way you move forward.

Your velocity through life depends almost entirely on the degree to which problems surround you. Problems sap your energy, reduce your choices, temper your ambitions, limit your perspectives, and reign in your goals. Too many problems and your potential for growth and impact is greatly reduced.

Your life's velocity is the rate at which you make choices and create connections. Though at a lower level you are taking very small steps that are almost indistinguishable from each other. Each of these tiny steps is a beginning but the most significant steps are in new directions.

Your velocity changes over time in a way that is proportional to the size of your collection of problems. This can make it seem like you have a daily fuel tank to contend with. There may actually be such a hard limit, but you are more likely to be limited by your problems.

When it's difficult to begin, life is hard. It's hard because you miss out on good opportunities at the same time you accumulate a variety problems. You can keep going as long as the habits and routines at the core of your life give you comfort. But when that is all you have, imagining an escape is very difficult. It's almost a tautology to even describe the situation - life is hard because you have too many problems.

If you are squeezed to the point that your velocity is (for example) 10 km/h, then you'll tend to adjust your projections, expectations, and self-image to suit. When you regularly see others at 40, 80, and 150 km/h while you poke along at 10 km/h, you might become discouraged and perhaps depressed. If that happens you'll experience a downward spiral of even more problems and a slowing velocity.

On the other hand, if you are largely free from such friction your velocity will be much higher, say 100 km/h or even 1000 km/h. At these velocities there are so many more opportunities, open doors, helping hands, and friends in the right places. Depending on the opportunities you choose, your impact can grow exponentially rather than stabilizing or stagnating.

At higher velocities you are able to take on complex and challenging projects, whether new creations or dealing with existing ones. With complex projects you may have to approach from many different angles, apply a variety different methods, work in discrete chunks, and connect with others. Each of those approaches, methods, chunks, or connections is a new beginning. Every bit of progress along the way is a small step. So when faced with complex problems requiring great energy, your ability to begin is very important.

The paradox many of us face is that our current situation is itself a complex problem requiring great energy, and it is the exact reason we are unable begin. But there is hope.

Beginning with Technology

It's a strange thought that technology, through computer software, can help with beginnings. We tend to think of beginnings as being larger and less frequent than they are because most of the time we are stewing about at least one tough problem and resisting the first step. Yet beginnings are everywhere if we consider their simplest form - nearly insignificant and meaningless, but still the origin and continuation of everything in our lives. This perspective leads to a truly beneficial intersection of individuals with computers.

There are two aspects to this intersection: the technology must be available and accessible, and the technology must work equally well for anyone who uses it, no matter where they are in life or what their purpose is. Overall, the technology adapts to individual reality, not the other way around.

The first aspect involves a beginning for the technology itself, which is really the collection of beginnings of each person who discovers it. Most of anything is never discovered, so anyone who does discover it must be hooked quickly and deeply. This requires at the very least an appealing story, a very strong value proposition, an amazingly low barrier to entry, no risk, nothing changed to suit, zero monetary cost, and worldwide distribution.

It's very difficult to convince anyone to take a step in a new direction. We have sales experts and motivational seminars and coaches to help us, but even those professionals work very hard for their results. So forget trying to change many people, you could target a single person, even as a long-time trusted friend, over years, and still get nowhere. You'd certainly strain the relationship. It's hard enough to begin ourselves sometimes, and it's often harder to get anyone else to begin. Overall a huge challenge by any measure.

The second aspect presents a similar challenge. To work for a given person, the technology must work for everyone. Or as close to everyone as possible. If it worked for only a specific type of person - such as a technologist - then it would not be general enough and not represent a true beginning.

Beginnings are sometimes so hard that a person may not even take small risk-free actions that have always felt good to do. Like eating when hungry or sleeping when tired. Really basic stuff. Before any first step we are often apprehensive because beginnings which matter are disruptive. Such change implies risk so we have to convince ourselves that the benefits are great enough. Without a generally positive, hopeful, or constructive mindset, along with energy and confidence, beginnings don't happen as freely as they could.

So if there's one thing the technology must do well, it's beginnings. Nothing else really matters. All kinds of them: new beginnings, easy beginnings, hard beginnings, beginnings of huge undertakings, beginnings in new directions, and innumerable beginnings in established directions.

Thankfully they are each fundamentally the same general beginning:

Diagram of a beginning

The key is to split that general beginning. The individual (you) handles the abstract portion while a computer handles the concrete portion. The phase change is the process of translating an abstract thought into a concrete step that can be easily mirrored on the computer through a very simple interface.

This split works because both you and the computer do your own thing very well. The computer can't comprehend why it is interacted with, and you don't need to comprehend how the software works. You also don't need to know why you took the action or why you chose to record it. First you do it, then you record it. Ideally there is as little thinking involved as possible. Otherwise there is a risk that you are changing to suit the technology.

By focusing so intently on the general beginning the software presents no innate barriers to adoption and ongoing use. There are no judgements or expectations, no restrictions on what it can be used for or why it is used at all, and it is generally inclined to keep providing a richer set of beginnings rather than the opposite we are accustomed to. These properties allow you to develop a mirror of your self that is as detailed and complete as you like, beginning from where you are right now.

So when it comes down to it, the two major aspects of an individually beneficial intersection with computers are tightly wound. The overall value proposition is that beginnings benefit you and so that's exactly what you get, in a way that is completely aligned with your personal values and interests.