On being “technical”

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash. Source


The dictionary definition for technical is the following:

  • (Field of study) “Physics is a very technical field.”
  • (People) “Sally has a strong technical background.”
  • (People) “I’m looking for a technical cofounder.”
  • (Ideas) “Gene editing via CRISPR is a very technical process.”
  • (Projects) “This project will be a great technical stretch for you.”
  1. Technical: requiring background knowledge to be understood.
  2. Technical: relating to things as opposed to people.
  3. Technical: employing mathematical thinking.

Am I technical?

The definitions above apply to ideas — how do we map them to people? A simple answer is to say that you are a “technical person” if you are interested in technical subjects.

  1. Kasra graduated from a high school program specialized in math and science. He took the more advanced AP classes in calculus and physics offered at his school, and self-studied calculus and linear algebra for a summer. He graduated college with two degrees in computer science, taking several proof-based math and computer science courses along the way.
  2. Kasra mostly applied to that specialized high school program because his older brother went there. He performed pretty poorly in tenth grade math so he self-studied for a summer because he didn’t want to fail the following year. He spent most of his free time in high school working on the school newspaper. His favorite high school class was European history, and he volunteered to help a sociology professor write a textbook. His favorite course in college was a seminar on philosophy.

Interests versus Fears

The important distinction to make when applying the notion of technical to oneself is to acknowledge whether you’re doing it based on your interests or your fears — based on curiosity or dread.

Does this matter?

Honing in on curiosity and fear helped me clarify something — I was using the label of technical and non-technical more as a barrier than as a guide for figuring out what I want to do. I was implicitly looking for a reason to conclude that I am simply not a technical person, so no point bothering with all this programming and math stuff.


  1. Of course, a poetic explanation of the orbit is less likely to provide us with empirically testable claims, but it’s nonetheless a description of it.



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