Friday, October 28, 2005

Geeking Out

It's 12:03 A.M., and I've just opened up the laptop to jot down a random thought. Aso some people will know, as well as being a philosophy tragic, I'm like, a total geek. Sure, I play sports and can get some pleasure from "normal" activity, but it doesn't take much to set me off.

At work, I am a software developer. Right now, I'm enjoying using the Python language. I used to like Java, but then I found Python. It's *my* kind of language. I first experienced what has often been reported to me, as I incorrectly assumed, facetiously. I was "thinking" in Python.

It's like learning another language of any kind. Usually, you're just reaching for your phrasebook so that you can express what you've just thought of in English. Programming is a bit like that, but more so.

You break down a problem in your head, into parts and things that need to be done, just like if you were planning to fix your gutters, or go away on holiday. Then, you express all of that in code.

Some people report periods in which they actually *thought* in that programming language, just as scholars of a foreign language might eventually have a whole thought entirely in that language.

For about two minutes, I did that. I was following through and modifying some of my code, and instead of thinking "Right, so this is where I'm doing task X, but I need do to task Y, my internal monologue was actually *in* Python.

This might sound like, well, a load of crap, especially to non-programmers, but bear with me. Geeky programmers might get it. Heidegger would probably get it -- he invented a whole language for his philosophy.

Wittgenstein would probably just goggle while I missed the point of communication with enough velocity to get into orbit. He might accept that in conversation with a computer, truly well-defined terms might be agreed upon, but still fail to capture any real meaning.

I also reckon some artists have it -- they think "in" their medium, they have whole, real ideas that do not express themselves linguistically, but according to the metaphors of their art.

I wonder if a musician might have it, or an athlete, or a martial artist... Now there's reasoning with your fists!

So maybe, it's just not that unusual. Have you ever had an experience like this? What other kinds of mental structure can you think in? Are these the ramblings of someone who couldn't get to sleep?



Anonymous Becky said...

I can't do that, but then I can't do anything in computer programming language. I can see the attraction of it though. I've often thought that it would be something I could have gotten really into, had I discovered it at a sufficiently young age (I'm 24 now and I think it's really too late).

I really loved the logic component of my philosophy degree though. That's quite a lot like programming language, isn't it? At least, almost everyone else in my classes were computer science students. It's no longer a compulsory subject for a philosophy degree at my university, so most philosophy students don't do it.

I'm so glad I did though. I loved starting out with one thing and ending up with another. Plus it was really... um... grade efficient? What I mean is, I could get great grades without doing much work. it's one of those things that you either get or you don't. Plus you never had to write essays. I do enjoy writing essays usually, but they sure do take forever.

Sorry, this was a bit off the topic. But I think I understand what you're talking about!

10/28/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Kuba said...

not so much anymore, but back when i was making a lot of videos, editing for days on end with little sleep and no sunlight, i'd eventually come out into the real world and my thoughts would be constructed of pure images artificially juxtaposed like as if edited together. rather than think to myself "I have to get home before my wife wakes up and sees i'm still out" I see it as a cinematic narrative complete with fades and score and lighting. and it's not as if it's a consciously creative process; it's spontaneous and difficult to willfully alter. eisenstein, i think, being the father of editing language, wrote of such a phenomenon. i think it's not quite the same thing as what you experience with programming language though. i think ultimately i'm translating the visual information back into english and not thinking in it natively. now that would be something.

11/04/2005 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous RdR said...

You might be a bit unkind to Wittgenstein: he started out as an engineer, and was heavily into logic in his younger years. I suspect he would totally get "thinking in logic".

Even his later work is not unsympathetic: he thinks you understand a word by its usage. Words in programming languages are very understandable in that regard: they mostly used in exactly one way.

11/19/2005 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Great comments all. Thanks for them.

11/22/2005 03:08:00 PM  

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