Larry Wall, the father of Perl programming language, says that the language he created in 1987 is very "post-modern." Like po-mo architecture, for instance, Perl "collects features from other languages, things that seem to be distinct ways of doing things, and finds a way of meshing those in a pleasing fashion—the same way a poet might take words that are very different from each other and mesh them into a coherent poem." Thanks to Wall's background in linguistics, Perl is also much more like a natural language than most computer languages.
In his Big Think interview, Wall explained the basics of computer programming using the analogy of cooking with a recipe. At its most basic, a computer program will first "list out various things that you're going to be dealing with," followed by "some instructions that say what to do with those ingredients." Like the head chef, the programmer is in control of the overall operation, but the computer acts like a sous chef, who can be trained to do simple repetitive actions, thereby taking over "the boring bits of our thinking."
Wall also told us the five programming languages that everyone should know, and talked about the story behind his three virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris. Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings really are the ideal model for successful programmers, he said. "A hobbit is lazy in a very industrious way; a hobbit is very impatient in a very patient way; and a hobbit is proud in a very humble way."
Apple tries hard to be the arbiter of good taste, Wall says, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "The world would be a much poorer place without Apple as part of the cultural ecosystem, but we also need the other people who keep that from being the only way to do things. Because when good taste becomes mandatory, then it's not really good taste any more; it's just manners."
And for anyone wanting to write code more like Larry Wall, he also told us about his work habits, likes, and dislikes.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.
- Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
- Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.
- Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
- Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
- The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
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