personal work

I have spent a fare share of time on a personal interpretation for meaning of life. My current response to the question is that life is meant for us to enjoy beauty. I understand that the response is very contextual and there are many competing alternatives. But the aesthetics answer has always had a strong personal appeal and also stayed with me for the longest.

There are many kinds of beauties. Few are simple, few are complex. Simple beauties have more reptilian-brain connections, complex beauties demand more cognitive effort. You need to spend time to understand and appreciate theatres. You need to study higher mathematics to appreciate FFTs. Complex beauties are more rewarding. The deeper you go there, the more meaningful life becomes.

There is a famous Feynman video about beauty of a flower that I find connected to this idea:

From what I have seen, many meaningful-life pursuits driven by intellect, emotions, constructed goals and achievements, or anything else, have roots in one or another source of aesthetic appreciation. If this is my current belief, it makes sense to rethink how I see systems that I spend a good amount of my time in, like my profession.

Discussions around value alignment are very common. This is something I have employed as a tool to understand fits of various kinds in professional setting. People I work with, teams, projects, or the whole company. I have always found it to be limited, but didn't have good alternative to think towards. I believe I have a better answer now: Aesthetic alignment. People or systems that are aesthetically aligned with you share a common framework for aesthetic appreciation.

At a surface level, you can see a lot of alignment. Common training and general diffusion of ideas help. But diving deeper, towards more complex beauties, things fall apart. People generally end up aligning on goals, ways of working, cultural commonalities etc. These are useful but mere proxies for deeper alignment that shows up only when you inspect complex beauties together. Whenever I am frustrated, or lost, the distinction shows up more clearly . I believe I can do better by explicitly deconstructing the interpretation of aesthetics for each entity I work with, aligning on that, evaluating fit, and then managing expectations.