Complementary language?

Robin Becker robin at
Sun Dec 26 16:22:47 CET 2004

Alex Martelli wrote:
> Robin Becker <robin at> wrote:
>>Well your utility function seems to be related to "learn more approaches
>>to programming".
> Which part of "if" do you find hard to parse?

no part

>>I suspect there may be some programming language 
>>measure which would push really high level languages way up.  Simply 
> "Language Level" as defined in
> <> (first google hit for
> "language level" _without_ quotes) might be a starting point.  If one
> were to study accurately (as opposed to "eyeball it", as
> does too often) LL for, say, Lisp, Oz, OCAML, Ruby, Perl, Python, I
> doubt one would find statistically significant consistent differences
> across a broad range of domains, though.

so if these languages are equivalent the cpu measure might have some 
value ;)

>>I agree entirely with this last, but this is about language comparisons
>>and if we're being objective we need to do some measurements. If this is
>>impossible then discussion reduces to 'my language is better than yours'
>>which is pretty futile.
> I do not agree with the underlying axiom that all human endeavours
> _must_ be numerically measurable or else can't be meaningfully

I take this to mean that comparisons can be done some other way. If so a 
  rationalist such as myself would want them used. Discussing 
Wittgenstein will probably not assist me if logic/mathematics can't. 
Human languages are also not comparable numerically, but that doesn't 
stop linguists from comparing and classifying them. I suppose there must 
be an equivalent dissection for the fundamental concepts of CS languages.

> It's not _conceptually impossible_ to measure the didactical values of
> different endeavours in terms of enhancing skills at some given target
> tasks; it _is_, however, prohibitively costly, in most cases, to perform
> properly controlled double-blind experiments of this nature.  In this
> case, as in most other similar ones in real life, we're not even given a
> precise set of target tasks, just (as is perfectly reasonable) a generic
> potential desire to _learn about different approaches to programming_.

I was thinking that perhaps indirect measures might assist; perhaps 
teachability, popularity etc could be used. I work with some student 
interns. They are asked to learn haskell, their teachers like it and the 
students mostly hate it. I suspect that Oz has more 'features' so 
teachers will like it.

> I think it would be silly to try to stop people from desiring to learn
> something even when they can't quantify the eventual success at such
> learning endeavours.....

I'm certainly not attempting to stop any doing anything.

> Alex

Robin Becker

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