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 name is Blaine Hansen. I was born in 1990 in Salt Lake City, and I've lived here my entire life.
It's an enjoyable place to live, but strange one, and I believe 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 titanic 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 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.
Becoming a father wasn't a part of my official plan. As with many things in life, we are often surprised by the roads we walk. Despite the surprise and initial turmoil, I'm deeply grateful to fate that I have a wonderful son.
Being a parent is a paradox in many ways. It's deeply confusing that a relationship that makes you feel so scared, so harried, so weak, so inadequate, can also be the most meaningful and joyful you've ever experienced. In exchange for having a shard of our soul torn out and placed in a terrifyingly frail little container, we get to see that shard grow into a person, one just as mysterious and conflicted and scared and beautiful as ourselves. It's a painful price, but it's worth it.
Being a parent gets easier with time in many ways, as a child becomes more capable, independent, and mentally engaged. But it also gets harder with time, as they grow beyond you, and face the cruel choice of either staying weak and dependent, or risking the pain and heartbreak and doubt of venturing out to build a life of independence and meaning. We know they'll never be alone. But we also know they won't feel that way, just as we didn't.
Becoming a father has made me acutely aware of how urgent our collective problems are. My son will grow up into the world I and my peers build for him, just as I grew up into the world my parents and ancestors built for me. Each of us yearns for our children to have every opportunity, and to live a life of happiness, prosperity, and meaning. I remind myself every day that I have a duty to help that happen.
I desperately want to improve the world. 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, doing our best and putting things out there. If we relentlessly pursue the skills and knowledge needed to accomplish something important, and always hold ourself to a standard of excellence and quality, it seems 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Engineers manage a duality, between arrogance and humility. ... The arrogance is what gets you to do it, and the humility is what gets you through."
- Bryan Cantrill in Leadership without management: Scaling organizations by scaling engineers (opens new window).
Engineering is a strange path. Like an artist, you must find unique and interesting ways to combine disparate elements, and craft them into something elegant. But like a mechanic, you must grapple with the constraints of reality in a painful and exhausting way.
But the reward is that you get to create something. And, as enjoyable as the arts are, when you engineer something you actually get to see it work. It can really do something concrete and useful in the world. Working with software is especially exciting, because you get to create real practical machines from nothing but your thoughts.
And when you get it working, the work speaks for itself. When you've successfully created something useful, no one can say that it isn't real because of your background, or your qualifications, or your training. It just works, and thats undeniable. The thrill of using hard-won rigorous skill to build something useful is intoxicating.
So we walk a razor's edge. A person who's used to building things may be too hasty to tackle problems that are bigger than just technology. They may ignore non-technical knowledge and charge forward without consideration. They may think everything can be boiled down to a logic problem with an optimal solution. But when a person with an engineer's mind, an artist's soul, and a compassionate heart is placed in front of an important and complex problem that desperately needs to be solved, I think they'll almost always find a way to make things better. That's what I hope to be, and I hope to find many allies with skills, energy, and passion to work alongside.
I've been a serious classical pianist since I was about nine years old, and 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 often been my refuge in hard times. As for everyone, there have been many eras where I wasn't sure what to do next, who to ask for help, or where to go. Sometimes we don't have anyone but ourselves, and music has always been something to lean on in those moments. Rachmaninoff especially has many times 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.
During these industrial and information ages, I think or culture has forgotten 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 we're now remembering, 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 practice martial arts, and enjoy studying philosophy, economics, game theory, political theory, history, literature, graphic design, and game design, biology, and bioengineering.
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 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.