☞ Coding as Magic

File:Vasnetsov samolet.jpg
The Flying Carpet, Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov, 1880

Obviously, coding is not sorcery. But there are some fun and thought-provoking parallels, so I am a big proponent of the generative power that thinking about computer programming as magic can have (note: that link is to an article I wrote). The philosopher William Rapaport is working on a massive textbook called Philosophy of Computer Science, and within in it, he explores various ways to think about computer science, from CS as science or engineering to CS as an art. And of course, it explores computer science as magic.

Rapaport compiles quotations such as this one:

For more of these, check out the section in the textbook that begins on page 153.

Because of all of this, I truly loved Clive Thompson’s article on why everyone makes little “Hello, World” programs, which used this as a springboard to discuss coding as thaumaturgy. So great:

Writing software seems all the more like sorcery because, well, all you’re doing is uttering words. Get them wrong and nothing happens. Utter them correctly and inert matter—silicon—suddenly obeys your orders. Coding is the art of “telling rocks what to think,” as the programmer Erin Spiceland once quipped.

(Bonus Secret: these ideas are explored in my in-progress novel!)


I found this fascinating from the article “Knock Knock. Who’s There? Kids. Kids Who? Kids Tell Terrible Jokes”:

little kids’ jokes are a bit like babies’ babbling…

…slightly older children—often around preschool age—learn the rhythms and formats of jokes without really understanding how humor is supposed to work, resulting in nonsense that has the shape of a joke but isn’t, really.


And finally, I happened to catch a bit of a CNBC interview with the CEO of Campbell Soup when I was at the gym. And never have I heard someone wax so rhapsodically about soup. A few quotes from the interview: “I love the tradition of soup,” “mainstream broth business,” and the core soup market of “bowl-eating.” It is bonkers and I love it.

Until next month.

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