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Paul Graham's Infatuation with the Concept of Hacker (xahlee.blogspot.com)
11 points by fogus on April 13, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 2 comments

>I really hate the word “hacker”. Imagine, what Dijkstra will have to say about “a lang designed for ‘hacker’?” LOL.

That was a pathetic criticism of pg's "infatuation with the concept of hacker".

But I do agree that educators should not be spreading the myth of "the hacker". I see people who solve far complex problem than I face in my job, people who can store immense amount of information in their head, people who can abstract out the details from a problem, model complicated real life problems on paper struggle to solve their problems using a computer. Is it because of the tools that we give them? Is it because of some kind of cognitive dissonance? Is it a totally different mental model than they have been accustomed to? What would be the basic skills to become a good programmer? How do you develop interest and skills to solve more complicated computation problems using them? How do we make people appreciate the immense power of computers and the abstraction layers that we have to solve problems?

I do not know the answers to these questions. But I strongly believe that spreading this myth of a hacker, who are almost born with these magical skills,is not helping. Everybody should program computers. Everybody can program them.

Everybody should program computers. Everybody can program them.

I was with you up until this point. I don't know that everyone can program computers, and it's quite possible that many people cannot.

Observe: some people cannot, as programming requires intelligence and some people are in fact no more intelligent than vegetables, usually due to brain damage. If we progress further we have people that are capable of simple thought, but cannot even recognize themselves in the mirror. Somewhere down the line of progression (since we cannot really rank intelligence, let's assume we are progressing in whatever "direction" of intelligence leads to the ability to program [if there is more than one, pick one arbitrarily]) we can choose a brain which gives people the ability to construct rudimentary programs. I admit the line here is extremely fuzzy, because programs can vary in complexity: the least you need is to be able to remember two words: "print 'hi'". At this point our knowledge goes to hell, it's not really clear what functions of our minds are necessary to construct and understand varying levels of program complexity, or whether anything special is required at all. Simple statements like "everybody can program", or "only some can program" gloss over extremely complicated neurological (possibly psychological, as well) issues that won't be resolved for some time, and have no known answer.

We may believe it to be true, but I would say such a belief is heavily influenced by our own experiences, as well as our own socialization with people that share that experience. We can program, why couldn't others? It's tempting to believe that because it was true for us it's true for everyone, but sadly (or not so sadly) this really isn't always true. Stating as fact that everyone can reeks of bias and optimism, because honestly it just isn't that simple.

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