Clojure Gazette 141: Spam, Transit, Modules

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Spam, Transit, Modules
Clojure Gazette
Issue 141 - September 14, 2015

Hi there,

I was reminded of something very important recently by someone I follow on Twitter. She said (paraphrasing) "I work hard learning to program not for the love of programming but to make things I want to see in the world." At first I thought "She's right! Am I wasting my life loving the hammer instead of the shelter it can build?" What am I building?

But then I remembered: there is a purpose. I think programming is the most significant medium since the printing press. The printing press made owning books—and access to the world's knowledge—incredibly common. It gave people a reason to learn to read. And it changed the shape of academic discourse.

Programming could have such profound changes in the next few hundred years. Programming gives us the closest thing to extending our thinking that we can find. And debugging is the closest thing to thinking-about-thinking. It has the power to change us as much as or more than print.

And that's why I learn all of this technical stuff. I want to make this more accessible to the masses. From one side, it's about learning how to teach programming like we know how to teach children to read. Alphabet blocks, "A is for Apple", picture books with easy words, Dr. Seuss, etc. And from the other side, it's about making programming easier, like how Charlemagne simplified the script without losing any expressive power.

When I want to learn something, I can code up a simulation. I have the skills. But most people do not, and so can only rely on someone else writing the simulation. It's one-way communication. The consumer cannot change the program and send it back to the producer and say "Great idea, but what about this?" There is no dialog of ideas.

I dream of a day when programming is as common as reading and writing. Not for economic reasons like it being a steady job, but for the same reasons we learn to read. It develops human potential, enriches lives, provides opportunities, and gives us more mastery over our well-being. And with computers integrated into everything in our lives, we will need the skills to make them our own.

Rock on!
Eric Normand <eric@lispcast.com>

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