blainehansen

Bio

This page is, simply, about me. It isn't a resume, it isn't a list of my credentials or work experience. I'm just saying what I think, some of my feelings about who I am, the things I believe, the life I've led, and the life I'd like to lead.

I hope you enjoy it, and maybe even find something to think about within it.

My Home and My City and My Life

My name is Blaine Hansen. I was born in 1990 in Salt Lake, and I've lived there my whole life.

It's an enjoyable place to live, but strange one, and I believe it's a perfect vantage point to see all the different ideas in the world clashing against each other. So much of both the old world and the new, the conservative and the liberal, the globalist and the isolationist, can all be found here, grinding against each other, everyone trying to make sense of these large disagreements. It's a city that makes clear both the follies and victories of all those viewpoints, showing that different isn't always better, only better is better.

It's a beautiful city, ensconced by the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, both protected and isolated from the rest of the world. Being surrounded by mountains my whole life has always made the world feel so immense, and every time I've stepped out of my home valley, I can't help but feel like every turn holds something incalculably different from what I'm accustomed to. I have a deep wanderlust, both to visit many other places and live in as many as is practical. I will still always feel like Salt Lake is my home, and no matter where else I may roam I will always cycle back here in whatever way makes sense.

In many ways, I've had a strange life. I grew up in a very religious home with very traditional values, in a city where old power structures and old ways of thinking are incredibly powerful but losing sway. I now find myself in a place where I'm constantly pushing back on all things traditional. Traditional power structures, modes of social organization, beliefs and patterns of thinking, institutions, laws. Simply put, if I feel there's a better way to do something, I don't care how long the previous method has been used, or how many people are using it. But I also deeply defend the things that demonstrably still work, no matter how bored people may be or what social changes sweep over them.

I'm an unusual person who's lived an unusual life, with a fair amount of turns. I'm enjoying the ride though, and am excited to see where it goes next.

I'm a Pianist

I've been a serious classical pianist since I was about nine years old, and have taught piano in a small capacity for a number of years. I love classical music, especially the works of Rachmaninoff and Ravel, and I strongly believe playing the piano taught me to appreciate the details and nuances of the world, how to focus my mind, and not become discouraged in the face of a large and intimidating project. It's one of the pillars my personality, and I intend to play seriously for the rest of my life.

The piano has always been my refuge in hard times. As there are for everyone, there have been many eras for me where I wasn't sure what to do next, who to ask for help, or where to go. Sometimes we don't have anything but ourselves. Music has always been the thing I've leaned on in those moments. Rachmaninoff especially has always reached out through the decades and reminded me that anger and loneliness and despair eventually pass away into hope and vigor. Nothing else has ever had that effect on me.

There's something our culture forgot for a long time in the industrial and information ages, about the value of craftsmanship, of striving to do something well simply to do it well. I think the human mind and body and soul crave to struggle against something, to push themselves to become better, and to create something worthy and beautiful as a result. I think our culture is waking up to this, and craftsmanship is receiving more and more attention as a road to success and happiness. I'm glad.

For me the craft of music has been indispensable. I can't remember when it happened, but at some point I fell in love with the tiny details of making a piece excellent. The long hours and deep concentration and mental struggle became something I looked forward to, and I still can't say why. All I can say is that running my hands across a printed score, analyzing its details, scrawling in my interpretations, chord analyses, finger numbering decisions, and slowly but surely turning a furious jumble of little dots and lines into a fluid physical and emotional experience I can enjoy and share is deeply rewarding.

I'm Curious and Active

I also practice martial arts, and enjoy studying literature, biology, bioengineering, philosophy, political theory, history, graphic design, and game design.

I have a theory that every area of human inquiry can, if abstracted to its principles, be useful in areas it seemingly has nothing to do with. Insights from game designers have helped me be a better musician and programmer. Insights from martial arts have helped me be a better friend and businessman. Insights from computer science have helped me come up with many political and social solutions I'm excited to build for the world. There is value in specialization, but a human mind is good at making connections between disparate things, and so to close yourself to the many brilliant thoughts of other fields is simply foolish.

I got involved in Chinese martial arts right before my senior year in high school, and ever since it's been my preferred method of staying healthy. Even as I moved away from the school and instructors that I enjoyed so much, and lost any practical options of taking classes, I've kept a personal routine of daily exercises based completely on what I learned from them. It's an exercise system that doesn't just ask you to slog through the same repetitive motion over and over, but to change and adapt and stay focused on every part of your body. It's a challenge for the entire human machine, and I love it.

I'm (sort of) a Designer and Entrepreneur

I think the word entrepreneur is brutally overused in our culture right now. All it really means is just a person who attempts to attain success by pursuing a path of self-employment. I wish people would stop and remember that.

But, in the sense that everyone else seems to be using the word, I'm certainly an entrepreneur, since I love to find new ways of doing things, and love to upend complacent systems with new and superior ways of thinking.

This doesn't mean that I'm reckless and destructive though, since different isn't always better, only better is better. When something works and there are no verifiable ways to improve it, just leave it alone.

I'm also a Designer, but this word I actually think has the opposite problem of Entrepreneur, in that it's used not nearly enough and has an overly small meaning. Design immediately makes people think of graphics and aesthetics, but design is much more than that. Design is simply arranging any particular system to most effectively achieve its ends. A computer program that works well must necessarily have been designed well, based on the principles of that medium. A musical composition, a work of non-fiction, a mode of social organization, are all things that must be designed properly to achieve their goal. It isn't just about graphics and aesthetics.

Many people have demonstrated that there are principles of design that apply to every realm where human beings are attempting to create something with a purpose. Simplicity, lack of repetition, efficiency, encapsulation of necessary complexity, are all things any designer must grapple with, no matter if their medium is clay or computer chips or political systems. This is why whatever skill someone may hold, and whatever task you are trusting them to complete, no matter how unimaginative and boring you may believe it to be, the first thing you have to look for is creativity, and the mind of a designer.

I want improvement, and I like to solve ambiguous problems

I'm an open-ended problem solver. I like to solve the ways people are doing things, and I hope to do so with technology that makes it easy for them to change.

I desperately want to improve the world, in any way I can possibly identify and effect. My hope is that some of the ideas rattling around in my head really will change things, and change them drastically.

But all any of us can do is just keep trying things, doing our best and putting things out there. If we have a mind for actually doing something of consequence, and we relentlessly pursue the skills and knowledge needed to accomplish those things, and we always hold ourself to a platinum standard of excellence and quality, it seems like a mere matter of time before something we do hits the mark.

I'm a strong believer in open source technology. I believe a day will come when every idea and creation is open source, and I hope to be instrumental in bringing about that world. For now, I'll just keep working on my current open source projects.

There's a long list of things I find frustrating about the world, and here are some of the principles I hope to make more real:

  • Decentralization and distribution of power.

Synchronous organization models and certain irrational social and legal norms have allowed a very small number of people to amass a majority of power, and I believe asynchronous models and protocols can shake these controlling masses apart.

  • Freedom of information and ideas.

An idea I believe has always been true but is only now becoming widely obvious, is that information can be hidden, but it can't be controlled. The sooner our world embraces and uses that truth the sooner we'll all be much better off.

  • Universal access to resources.

We have enough of almost everything for almost everyone. We just have to come up with systems that utilize those resources to their greatest potential.

  • Healing social divides.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Almost all human conflicts are unnecessary, and different ways of organizing ourselves and resolving disputes could make almost all human conflicts go away entirely.

So there you have it

I'm a person who fits some molds and breaks others, and people are often surprised either by how normal I am or how abnormal I am.

My hope is that this simply means I'm doing what works and shunning what's not. We'll see how it goes from here.