Friday, March 30, 2012

Programming and boringness

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." -- Picasso  
"The use of a program to prove the 4-color theorem will not change mathematics - it merely demonstrates that the theorem, a challenge for a century, is probably not important to mathematics." -- Perlis
Once we can program a computer to solve a problem, that problem becomes boring.

It seems that when something is programmable, computable, it immediately loses its appeal as an endeavour for humans. Something that can be solved by an unthinking machine is no longer worthy of study by humans. (What remains to be of interest to humans are better ways to solve the same problem - write the same program better, more efficiently, more elegantly - but these seem second-order, once we have solved the problem.)

Of course this question opens a whole can of worms about what it means to be computable - e.g. does it have to be economically computable, or does it have to be computable before the end of the universe? But in general, I think that programming is interesting, because it touches upon the interesting issue of what it means to be boring.


patchworkZombie said...

Well of course. If I have someone who can give me the answers I need, I never bother looking it up myself, I just ask them. I have never been able to ignore an easier way to do something.

dmbarbour said...

I don't believe we can explain language fanaticism, holy wars, bike shedding, and battles over white-space sensitivity by arguing that a solved problem is 'boring'.

It seems to me that people find subjects interesting, most of all, when they have something (perhaps of dubious value, but something) to contribute.

Tan Yew-wei said...

Wanted to write a short reply, but it rapidly spiralled out of control. Decided to a separate post on my site instead.

Craig said...

Computer: A person who makes calculations.

People are boring.

Manuel Simoni said...

"language fanaticism, holy wars, bike shedding, and battles over white-space sensitivity"

But those are about the human facility of taste - and de gustibus non computandum est.