What prevents us from actual software engineering is our own cultural evolution. We pride ourselves on not achieving any significant depth of knowledge, but rather just jumping in and flailing at crude solutions. Not standardizing what we build works in favor of both the programmers and the vendors. The former are in love with the delusion of creativity, while the latter deem it as a means to lock in clients. There is also a persistent fear that any lack of perceived freedom will render the job of programming boring. This is rather odd, and clearly self-destructive, since continuously re-writing ‘similar’ code gradually loses its glamour, resulting in a significant shortening of one’s career. It’s fun and ego fulfilling the first couple of times, but it eventually gets frustrating. Solving the same simple problems over and over again is not the same as really solving challenging problems. We do the first, while claiming we are really doing the second.

During the program life a programmer team possessing its theory remains in active control of the program, and in particular retains control over all modifications. The death of a program happens when the programmer team possessing its theory is dissolved. A dead program may continue to be used for execution in a computer and to produce useful results. The actual state of death becomes visible when demands for modifications of the program cannot be intelligently answered. Revival of a program is the rebuilding of its theory by a new programmer team.

Backus Naur

It is a misconception, based on the stereotype of a Turing machine as executing a prearranged program one step at a time, to assume that Turing believed that any single, explicitly programmed serial process would ever capture human intelligence in mechanical form.

George Dyson

Monthly recap: December 2015

tara one

What a month … and what a year!

Big highlight of the month was Tara’s first birthday party, which somehow went off better than I had expected (I plan not to have any more big birthday parties until I can’t do anything about it).

We also had a fun “staycation” in San Francisco — all the fun of travel without the misery of travel, but it ended badly for me since I was comically unprepared for the freezing temperatures. Maybe it’s just me, but I never expected New York to be warmer in the winter.

To cap it all, the three of us watched the last sunset of the year from The Bistro at Land’s End.

Other miscellaneous events: adventures with mouse traps, a continuing dental implant saga, and mission creep in baby-proofing.

I suppose it’s now time to think about resolutions