As developers, it can feel like we’re treading water all the time. You’re constantly expected to learn, to discover, to uncover, to make, and to create. This, of course, is in your own time. In addition to everything else that we also have going on in life, the simple task of staying up to date can tire you out, sap your time, or become downright overwhelming.
Technology as an industry is constantly coming out with new updates, releases, libraries, frameworks, and ideas. The sheer amount of information that gets thrown in our direction seems to grow exponentially each year. It’s part of the knowledge inflation that has ballooned out in recent years. While the new releases are supposed to make our lives as developers easier, trying to keep up with everything can lead to anxiety and eventual burnout.
Before we get into how to deal with knowledge inflation, we need to first understand what it actually is.
Knowledge Inflation And Technology
There’s a thing in biology called the Red Queen Hypothesis. In a nutshell, it’s a theory that’s used to predict the extinction rate of a species. To survive, the animal needs to remain or outperform its peers and potential predators for resources and safety reasons.
For example, in order for rabbits to survive, they need to be able to outrun the fox. In order for the fox to survive, it needs to be able to catch the rabbit. As the animal ages, it gets naturally slower, which threatens the ability to survive without assistance. As the two compete, their speed increases until it hits an equilibrium or status quo within the reproductive cycles and population levels. This remains until someone ups the ante and gets faster.
When it comes to dev work and keeping up to date, we are constantly trying to outrun the process of stay updated but it never seems to be quite enough — that is, unless you’re the one creating the technology. Knowledge inflation is the equivalent of increasing the speed we need to obtain in order to remain in a state of status quo with our peers. This constant competition can take a toll on mental health. At some point, you’re going to become overtired and burnout.
Dealing With The Realities Of Dev Work
When you start out in the world of software development, you accept that there is a lot to learn and uncover. However, after a few years in the field, you begin to realize that you don’t know anything in particular. All the knowledge you’ve gained through job experience, fixing bugs, talking to other developers, reading random articles on the Internet, lurking over Stack Overflow comments, and encountering and dealing with spaghetti code, is just a series of ad-hoc things that built you into the developer that you currently are.