Advice to a Junior in High School?

Stan Graves soundinmotiondj at
Tue Sep 2 18:14:41 CEST 2003

Jeremy Bowers <jerf at> wrote in message news:<pan.2003. at>...
> On Tue, 26 Aug 2003 13:46:27 -0700, Stan Graves wrote:
> > Study literature - I have yet to see a single computer scientist who can
> > manipulate symbols as well as Shakespeare.
> class Rose:
> 	"A Rose is a Rose is a Rose."""
> 	def sweetness(self):
> 		return "very"
> rose = Rose()
> otherName = rose
> assert rose.sweetness() == otherName.sweetness()
> Would you *notice* if a computer scientist matched Shakespeare?

Yes.  I have had the mis-fortune of being a maintenance programmer for
far too much of my life.  I have read reams of documentation, and
hundreds of thousands of lines of code.  I have attempted to make
sense of code written to do one thing, but extended and tortured into
doing another.

This may not be the computer scientists fault - but the fact remains
that the resulting system of code has little, if any, coherence across
itself, let alone a deliberate connection from it's elements to
anything that resembles the real world problem that the code was
written to give greater insight.

Then again, if an army of editors attempted to re-write Shakespeare, I
doubt seriously if anythign worth reading would have survived.
> How can you compare the two at all?

I can compare the two because they relate to the same larger idea. 
Literature, on its surface may simply be pretty prose.  But literature
is also meant to provide us with some greater insight into the human
condition.  Literature can be a stand-in for actual experience.  When
you read the report of Lewis and Clarke to President Jefferson, you
can get a sense of what their journey was like.  That is a journey
that can never be redone - the face of the land has changed since that
time...yet the words of the report provide a greater sense of
understanding about the men, the journey, the land, and the times.

In general, code is written to solve a greater problem than the
creation of that code.  As such, code, or its results, should provide
a greater understanding into a non-code related problem.

As such, I can say that no computer program has provided me with a
greater sense of understanding into the problem it was meant to solve,
than Shakespeare has provided me with an understand of the human
conditions that he wrote about.  Even with the precise language of
mathematics, code is generally a poor stand in for actual
understanding of a problem.
> Statements like that sound all profound but are really the exact opposite;
> meaningless.

I stand by my original statement.  Perhaps with the clarification that
I have provided above, you may find some greater meaning in what I
originally said.  If not, I hope we can simply agree to disagree.

--Stan Graves

More information about the Python-list mailing list