I am struck by how much our world consists of instruments. Not just, our cars, phones, our computers, but many things as well. Our governments. Our bodies.

We pretty much organize our reality around the use of instruments. The muscles and tendons and blood that run throughout my body are all part of a well-tuned instrument that does something remarkably well.

The word “instrument” captures it better than the word “machine”. A machine is something that gets a job done. An instrument is something you explicitly use for a purpose. Which means it offers you an interface.

A house doesn’t just have plumbing and electricity and heating. It also has faucets and doors and chairs and tables and light switches. You operate it for a purpose, and it is made for you to do so.

Once you start to see things as instruments, you start to understand them better. What is the difference between a well-written research paper or proposal or movie or short story and a bad one? The former is a good instrument, and the latter is a bad one.

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