I completely agree with you, I have often had the same thoughts. Programming has helped me structure my brain and developed my problem solving skills. I have also learned the unreliability of computers and long hours of debugging for mind boggling bugs have given me a healthy amount of paranoia and doublechecking skills.
During my work with C ( ok it was pretty short ) I have never worried about aesthetics, I consider optimization and beauty of code more present in Perl than in other languages. Perl's language-like structure is a big plus when it comes to creative coding. Also, about being limited by certain outlooks ( 2D instead of 7.5D planes ) - working with Perl has given me more freedom than working with other languages because Perl offers less constraints.
Programming most definitely modifies your mind, it is like the effect of the logic of mathematics ( OK, I'm a logic addict I admit it ).
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