Mental Masturbation

Pleasurable but unproductive mental activity; at least in the short-term.

Sometimes people use a tool, language, or technique because it has ideas that stimulate or entertain their mind. It might not be "better", but one likes it because of the stimulation or challenge it provides. Example: messy Perl code might be considered an interesting puzzle to some developers. (I am not saying all Perl is messy. This is only an example.)

It may be like people spending 70 hours to fix their own car in their driveway rather than just pay a mechanic $250. It comes down to about $3.6 per hour. That is their own business until they turn work-related stuff into hobby-like toys.

Unless one has a son with whom one is working at the same time. Of course, this makes the $/h argument more like $1.8 an hour, but then again, that doesn't take into consideration the knowledge and experience gained, which may be worth much more than a couple of bucks an hour. Extrapolate to programming, and we see that although not always directly useful, the knowledge and experience may (or may not) be quite worthwhile to pursue.

But that just leads to self-perpetuation. It's valuable to transfer the knowledge to your son so that he can do the same one day with his son and so on. Unless your descendants are likely to become mechanics, there is no benefit.

But if you think that there is a benefit in being a consumer that understands what they are paying for then it is useful to expose your child to what it means to change the oil, change a starter, or do a tune up even if you expect that they will end up paying someone to do it for them later in life.

The whole thing about "fixing cars" here is an analogy, right? We're really talking about whether a mental activity could possibly be merely for pleasure, and whether that would be such a bad thing if it were, right? The "fixing cars" thing is just to illustrate the point that an activity might seem pointless but actually have benefit beyond the apparent pleasure it gives the performer. I'd say that the comment that there's no benefit unless your descendants become mechanics is hopelessly one-dimensional; the implication -- utilizing the above analogy -- is that there's no benefit in acquiring or having or exercising knowledge that's never applied (or taught to somebody else who applies it), which seems to be wrong prima facie. - LaurencePhillips

But keep in mind that many newer cars are not designed to be owner-serviced, in some cases requiring special tools to even change the oil. Also, I have been told (by someone who was showing me how to replace the water pump on a van I used to own, as it happens) that the idea that a person should be able to repair their own car is an AmericanCulturalAssumption, and that in most of the other industrialized nations it would be virtually unthinkable for all but a handful of auto enthusiasts, most of whom are licensed mechanics anyway. (As an aside: I have heard it claimed that in some countries - Japan is usually the one mentioned - it is illegal to service a vehicle if you are not a licensed mechanic, even if you are the owner. Can anyone confirm or deny this?) - JayOsako

This entire comment is essentially non sequitur (even if more-or-less true); I mean, it's pretty pedantic to remind us that newer cars are not designed to be owner-serviced (unless the writer meant to illustrate the page title, in which case it's a fine self-referential comment and I rescind my objection); it doesn't have anything to do with the discussion at hand, which seems to me at this stage to be about the notion that some (mental) activities may be pointless -- if pleasurable -- from one point of view but valuable from other points of view, while others are merely pleasurable for the performer, with no other benefit, and whether that's bad or good. OK, supposing I'm correct, so what? Well, the "so what" is: Stay on the beam! Whether modern cars are designed to be owner-serviced just isn't germane, even if it is true! - LaurencePhillips

Another problem with MM is nobody seems to want to do it in private:


[DeleteWhenCooked The relevance of the image above is...? it's a professional public mental masturbator in action, obviously! Specifically, see where his hand is?;]

Indeed. Masturbation has strong connotations of being socially inappropriate,

Thank God! (or whoever) Jizz from strangers is no more pleasant than barf.

but here it's only being used to describe things done purely for pleasure's sake. There might be higher priorities, but there's nothing inherently inappropriate about enjoying yourself, Puritanism aside. What's the big hang-up against playing chess?

Or rather we are just privy to the public MM, as I am sure there is plenty of it going on outside the public spotlight. I use this term in my work, with individuals and in small groups, to unstick the conversation and move onto more productive discussion.

If you do it with other people involved, then it can hardly be called masturbation. "Mental intercourse" would be more appropriate.

I tend to notice that people that tend to participate more in MM have poor listening skills, so it may really be solo.

{Or perhaps MentalOrgy?} Rather like UseNet?

Or perhaps MentalMutualMasturbation??

I think the essential point of the metaphor is that it is unproductive. I could go further but I'm hearing this booming voice in my head saying "Don't go there."

:-) People masturbate for pleasure, not for productivity. And the purpose of the majority of intercourse is pleasure too.

Yes, this is the point: people MM (and the other kind, too; just so) for pleasure not productivity. That's what makes it MM. That's a pretty good definition,eh? "MM: Pleasurable but unproductive mental activity." I think it's so straightforward I'm putting it at the top of the page. When someone is accused of MM, the accuser is pointing out that (a) you're only doing that 'cause it feels good; (b) it's not accomplishing anything (else). THAT'S why this page is here (IMHO): to define and explain the concept of MM. -- LaurencePhillips (this comment makes the following one literally ''non sequitur'; it goes with the one that begins with the smiley.)

Not if you are a sperm donor. [Or a farmer]

So a MentalSpermDonation? would be the same as to put a web page full of MentalDildos?. That makes sperm donation and dildos quite the same, doesn't it?

That is one LaynesLaw issue I wont touch with a ten, pole.

Well, to extend the recreational vs productive, MentalSpermDonation? would be more like producing an entity that was useful to others and engage in MentalMasturbation producing it, liking it or not. Fabrication of MentalDildos? would be a different matter. It might be a commercial and even unpleasant or automated endeavour. Perhaps something like generating puzzle books, crosswords, freak theorems etc. Or devising exceptionally perverse or beautiful languages. That might be MentalPornProduction.

It is one thing to think about experimental or practice ideas, but another to implement them. Playing with concepts is often a good exercise. However, putting them into production code is another thing.

The ultimate form of MM is UNIX/Linux. Never let the mechanics design the car, of course they'll design one that requires constant attention from a mechanic! -- a Windope loser

Gee, I thought that was the the definition of Windows and all Microsoft products. One screwed up, half-assed product after another.

I don't understand the original Unix comment, either. I am by no means a Unix expert (I mainly write applications in high-level OO languages like Ruby, Java, C#), but I certainly find it much easier to use/troubleshoot than that horrible Windows crap. And it certainly works quite a bit better, too.

And I could hardly be considered one of the "mechanics"--I have no idea how, say, a Unix kernel is implemented, nor do I know much about computer architecture. Unix is simply easier to use.

You are a mechanic: mechanics fix things. The guys who built UNIX are engineers. Windows is different in that you can't really fix it yourself - you need to go running back to the manufacturer when it breaks. MacOS is the same of course, but it breaks much less often. It's Volvo rather than a Rover. UNIX is an old VW.

Mac/Win is almost any very new car -- blackboxed and sealed, temperamental, each new release full of infant bugs and each old one obsolete. Shiny and buzzword-laden. Dent it and it needs entire new elements. (Reboot, reinstall application.) Crash it and you have a raisin. (Reinstall whole system from scratch or backup.) VW's are widely used, relatively transparent and some people do very perverse things with them. They are (or were) also used as basis for armoured vehicles.

I vote for the term "mental circle jerk" when it is a group activity...

Is there a difference between MentalMasturbation, BlueSkying?, Brainstorming, and ThinkingWithoutForm? ?

Generally you do brainstorming at the beginning of the project. As you close in to production time, more tried-and-true approaches should be taken unless it is a research project. In other words, there is a time for MM, and a time for not doing MM.

The commenter is wondering whether BrainStorming = MM, that is, that Brainstorming is unproductive but feels good. Even if the commenter holds that opinion, it begs the issue: BrainStorming is supposed to have a result, even if, in some particular case, it doesn't. MM is not supposed to have a result.

Brainstorming is not MM, but MM can be brainstorming, the differance is brainstorming is an excersise to gather unorginized ideas, while MM simply has no point.

The differences: BlueSkying? (BS1) and BrainStorming (BS2) are idea-formulating processes that are supposedly unconstrained in some important way (as in, "the sky's the limit") with the goal of producing ideas that would not be produced by similar, but constrained, processes. ThinkingWithoutForm? (TWF) is thinking that has no formal pattern or goal; it's not supposed to result in anything and is not directed. MM, on the other hand, is mental activity whose express, desired, direct, and only goal is pleasure. A specific instance of TWF could be enjoyable, in other words, and might appear to another to be MM, but it technically is not because the thinker did not set out to have pleasure; conversely, if the thinker did set out to have pleasure, the activity was not TWF, by definition. So BS1 and BS2 have different goals from MM, and TWF has no goal, while MM does. -- LaurencePhillips

This topic has been banned in all Red States (AmericanCulturalAssumption)

AlanKay appears to use a form of the term:

See InternationalObfuscatedCeeCodeContest, GoldPlating

Is this intended to imply that producing such code is MM? Or is it just advertising the contest?

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