Sunday, August 19, 2007

Suppose there was a computer. And on the computer, you could write a program that, when run, would answer any question you had, and produce any thing you ever wanted. But the computer didn't come with instructions, nor with that program. But it was running some programs. Now, suppose you came up with a complete document describing in detail the physical machinery of the computer - all the gates, and all the logic, and all the memory. Would studying that body of knowledge be a fast or effective way to figure out how to write better programs on the computer?

And suppose someone claimed to know how to program the computer. Would you try to pick their brain, or keep reading the machine operations manual? Would you ever actually try to write the program, or would you wait for someone else to write it?

There are just so many ways to waste time and not accomplish anything. And you can't really even know if what you're doing is useful. It always surprises me when people think that they are going to figure out how to write the programs they want from first principles, as if there were no giants upon whose shoulders one could stand.


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