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Being exposed to other cultures

by larsen (Parson)
on Aug 27, 2001 at 18:46 UTC ( #108139=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Today I was reading through Ovid's last Meditation about using different languages on PM and why it's a good thing to be exposed to different cultures and things like these.

While I was reading, I recalled one of the worst things I suffered during my years at the University: in my campus there were no other faculties except than the Computer Science department (I was in a small campus detached from the "alma mater"). I've always thought that having the possibility to talk with people with different backgrounds is very useful.

Specially being a computer scientist, I think that studying other disciplines brings more insights, more ideas, more good questions. Sometimes, new paradigms. For example, ideas "stolen" from biology brought to Genetic Algorithms. Cognitive sciences give ideas to the field of Artificial Intelligence.

But these are well-known examples. I'd like to know what other disciplines gave you good ideas to apply to Computer Science, specially to that strange art/science called computer programming.

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(Ovid) Re: Being exposed to other cultures
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Aug 27, 2001 at 20:41 UTC

    Oh, goodness, this one's easy for me. I wanted to be an economist and stopped taking economics classes at a local community college after I had taken all that they offered. One of the many interesting things about economics that I learned applied to programming was the following axiom:

    It is always cheaper and faster to prevent a problem than to clean it up.

    Any doctor will tell you that a vaccine is better than treating measles. Any environmental engineer can easily demonstrate the preventing pollution is cheaper than cleaning up the after-effects. Buying your spouse roses is cheaper than a divorce (look, just trust me on that one).

    So how does that affect programming? You'll notice in all of the above examples that a little bit of extra work beforehand is required to enjoy the benefits. But many parents don't bother to get their children vaccinated. Many people don't bother to recycle. Many husbands have never bought their wife roses. Here's the relation to programming: how many programs have you seen where someone just hacked something together quickly and hoped it would work. 'strict' isn't used, globals are everywhere and no error checking is apparent. Such programs are usually a mess.

    I don't know why it's so difficult to convince programmers to take the time to do it right, but then, I saw this all the time in economics. People are lazy (myself included!). We just don't want to bother to do things right the first time because it's extra work.


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Re: Being exposed to other cultures
by arhuman (Vicar) on Aug 27, 2001 at 19:59 UTC
    EVERY new knowledge/experience can (should) enhance your intelligence and hence your computer skill.

    Everybody has his own definition of intelligence, mine is :
    "Intelligence is the ability to find (hidden) relations between things to solve problems for which we haven't a known solution,
    usually by adapting a method used to solve a different problem."
    (I'm far from a philosopher or a knowledge engineer, sot my definition worths what it worths... ;-)

    So in this case EVERY new field of knowlegde/culture/encounter may increase your intelligence if you learn from it...
    It's not what you learn, but rather how what you learn could be "linked" to another field...
    (For example I remember I thought about packet routing, looking at ants !)

    Being a total geek I read almost only technical books.
    But I like when I can, to learn from totally unrelated field.
    • Marketing teach me a lot about User Interaction.
      See how salesmen induce a behaviour and imagine how it could be use to induce correct behaviour if applied to a GUI.
    • History teach me a lot about mistake of the past...
    • See how the linguist's knowledge of Larry helped him to design a GREAT language...
      (His Ideas are simple but he was the first to link so closely spoken languages and computer ones
      (please don't tell me about COBOL or LOGO they are obviously COMPUTER languages))
    • Even Sci-Fi teach me a lot (the Bene-Gesserit, the General Semantics, etc, are REALY good things to learn)

    Note :
    Srange to see how my answer is similar to my previous one on another thread...

    "Only Bad Coders Code Badly In Perl" (OBC2BIP)

      Robert Anton Wilson said something along the lines of this (can't find the real quote online now):

      The Ultimate Intelligence Test:

      • If you are feeling that the world is bigger, brighter, more enjoyable and fuller of opportunities with every day, you are getting more intelligent.
      • If you are feeling that the world is smaller, darker, less enjoyable and lacking opportunities with every day, you are getting dumber.

      For me, this is one of the most therapeutic sentences that you can give to "rationalists" (like most programmers are).

      Christian Lemburg
      Brainbench MVP for Perl

Re: Being exposed to other cultures
by TheoPetersen (Priest) on Aug 27, 2001 at 19:28 UTC
    There was a comic book in the 80's called "Shatter" (greatly publicised because it was the first comic drawn and produced electronically) that had an ongoing plot about stealing memory RNA from experts and injecting it into other people. (Suspend your disbelief by the neck until dead.) While the story wasn't all that great, I remember the hero's comment that every discipline he thus acquired made him more dangerous, in that each gave him ways to organise data and solve problems, whether the "stolen" expertise was in chemistry or violin making.

    I took a broad mix of Math, Economics and English in college and I think they each gave me problem solving tools. While Math may be the more obvious choice, the Economics classes gave me some practical grounding in gathering data (and in how silly the results can be if data is gathered selectively or if assumptions are made early in the process). A literature background will remind you that it's all been done before, if nothing else :)

    Some of the best programmers I've known had no formal background in computer science. And some of the worst were CS majors, but I won't make assumptions :)

Re: Being exposed to other cultures
by guillaume (Pilgrim) on Aug 27, 2001 at 22:00 UTC
    I guess I could say that music did play a big part for me.

    I played piano for about 10 years. What I got from that was, amongst other things, the ability to concentrate, manual dexterity, being able to process multiple tasks in parallel and also the sense of "art".

    Playing music requires you to be in a second state of mind, you often have to be very concentrated, you use both your hands and your brain, a bit like when you are in a coding session.

    Oh, and another thing helped a lot, to learn Perl and other computer stuff, that was learning English. But then, it might have gone the other way around: I learned English because of the computers. I've always been attracted by computers, and the urge to use and understand them drove me to learn English much faster.

    I think so much could be related this way, I think the way the brain works is by doing links between things you know, and the more you know the more you can learn, and the easier any problem you will encounter will be to solve.


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