Saturday, April 6, 2013

Programming Languages Considered Harmful

Computer programming "languages" were always a bad idea.  We never should have abandoned math.

The Turing Machine is a bit-rattle, an analytical mess.

The Lambda Calculus is a rude hack.

The Combinators have a grace and elegance, but are lotus-eaters.

The Laws of Form...   are themselves.

My father used to say, often enough that I internalized it, "A fool never learns, a man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others."

For my part, I took this advice to mean that I should use what I think of as the "ratchet effect" which can be put into words as: use the best thing you can find, until you find something better, then use that.

In mathematics (and computers properly understood are "only" mathematics) if a given structure is simpler and more elegant than, and serves to explain or re-create, some other more complex or less elegant system, then it is common to consider the first structure in some way more primal or fundamental than the later system.

But this breaks down when people are confronted with the Laws of Form.

They are too simple.

People tend to "sniff" audibly and say things like, "well, it's just another notation, isn't it?" and "it doesn't add much to the existing literature."  Which, of course, is exactly missing the point:  it adds nothing and takes away much that is then seen to have been unnecessary.

Eventually, if you stick with it, it takes away everything and "you" are back in the un-distinct Void.

The fact that the Laws of Form provide the best system for thinking and constructing mechanical thought are their least-interesting application.


We can say without fear of embarrassment or contradiction "The Laws of Form provide the best system for thinking and constructing mechanical thought", because we know that if some one were to come up with a better system it would be shown to be, in fact, the same system as the Laws of Form.

Two beings calculating Pi will arrive at the same value regardless of their circumstances.  In other words, their "circum"-"stances" (the stance of the Universe that surrounds one) would be identical in that way.  Likewise, the considerations here collected under that title "Laws of Form" are the same in all possible Universes, all Universe begins with the making of a distinction.

In the absence of distinction nothing can be signified.

Try to find the distinction between "you" and the contents of "your" awareness.

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