Discussion:
OT: Crazy Programming
Huaiyu Zhu
2002-05-19 08:16:16 UTC
Permalink
To my mind, it is a perfectly logical conclusion that if the final recipient
has some limitations (eg. the assumption that all things "REAL" must be
entirely or partly perceptible), then the delivery systems indeed cannot
help.
Care to outline that logic?

Huaiyu
Chris
2002-05-13 06:32:45 UTC
Permalink
In article <87offlnq3k.fsf at mathdogs.com>,
BTW, the idea of Perl Golf is interesting, but unapplied to Python. It
is possible to write short ugly programs in Python, but I would not to make
them the goal of a contest.
I'd better see a contest for "Python elegance", but unfortunately
"elegance" is hard (though not impossible) to measure.
That was my thought exactly. It's kind of a cool idea, but measuring the
wrong thing. The shortest programs may have hack value, but they're
absolutely awful in terms of readability, maintainability, etc. This may be
orthogonal or even somewhat in line with the Perl ethos
Perhaps at times it is the result, but the driving force in the Perl
community, from my experience, is that there is more than one way to do
it.

Give a group of Perl programmers a problem and you'll probably get more
different answers than there are people giving them. In the end, the
best idioms become commonplace, but they become commonplace not just
because they're obvious, though that might be the case, but because the
alternatives have been explored and the accepted approach has genuine
benefits.

While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
jmdeschamps
2002-05-14 12:51:28 UTC
Permalink
...
This is one thing I strongly dislike about the "Perl attitude" to
programming, along with the "coding is an art not a science" viewpoint
and the "code is poetry" school of thought. Programming and coding are
(or should mostly be) sciences or engineering practices which we
should strive to get right every time -
...
This is exactly right, and it is an important point. As long as programs
continue to be essentially "hand-crafted", we will never be able to build
reliable large systems. Only when programming ceases to be art and moves
into the realm of engineering -- like building a bridge or a building --
will we get the reliability that we really need in order to create the
large systems that the twenty-first century demands.
Why should coding not be an art? or Poetry? while developing
engineering virtues!
But programming is not building bridges or buildings; in its very
essence, its the realm of whatever is within the outer limits of human
creativity, whatever that is! And that is both art and science, and so
many other things beside.

Happy programming !
end quote : "... to infinity, and beyond !"
--
Jean-Marc
Cegep du vieux-montreal
Andrew Dalke
2002-05-15 13:21:28 UTC
Permalink
Bridge building is much simpler than programming.
What does that mean? A simple roadway bridge takes (I imagine)
a dozen people over a couple days. A simple program can be
written by one person in a single day.

How do you compare the Skyway bridge in Florida to Python?
The Bay Bridge in San Francisco to MS Outlook?
If we only made the same kind of software for years and had been thought
in school exactly how to build that kind of software I would bet that it
would be great software.
You might also be interested in reading Henry Petroski's "To Engineer
is Human." Quoting from p81 in my copy (and but one of many quotes
I could have used)

The engineering task of designing a bridge shared qualities with
the tasks of both poetry and science. Like poetry the exact bridge
one designer conceives to span a given space during a given technical
era may never exist in the mind of any other engineer at any other
time. Yet, like discoveries in science, if the theoretical and
motivational foundations for a bridge are laid, then a bridge will
be build, and it will be <i>the</i> bridge or that place and time
no matter who designed it. No poetic license is allowed in the design
of the details of the bridge, for an erratic line on the blueprint
or an eccentric number in a claculation can be the downfall of the
structure, no matter how much like a sound bridge it looks on paper.
And today, if a computer is used, even so small an error as an
inadvertent slip of a punctuation mark, decimal point, or sign in
an equation can lead to a bridge that fails even if the computer
model works.

Anyway, there's quite a bit there on building bridges, and the
philosophy of engineering in general. The book goes into why
engineering fails. For example, it mentions a cartoon by Ton
Auth
... the falling Skylab striking a flying DC-10, itself loaded
with Ford Pintos fitted with Firestone 500 tires, with the
entire wreckage falling on Three Mile Island, where the fire
would be extinguished with asbestos hair dryers.

BTW, as far as I can tell the reason for the difference is that
bridge failures kill people. Software, for the most part, doesn't.
(That which could is often built to better standards.) And people
have decided with their economic power that they are willing to
buy buggy software that does at least something useful rather than
wait or pay more for good software.

I think it also something to do with the tendency of most people
to ignore small problems, nor realizing they add up. It takes
my machines about 4 minutes to (re)boot. If I sit around waiting
for them every day I waste about 20 hours of my life a year just
waiting. If there are 100 million computer users, that's 4,000
people lives wasted in a bootup, per year. (Assuming I did my
math right.) Yet people are willing to put up with "oh, it's only
a few minutes each day."

Andrew
Paul Boddie
2002-05-15 10:01:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by jmdeschamps
Why should coding not be an art? or Poetry? while developing
engineering virtues!
Yes, but then: "Look at my lovely spacecraft! Which planet is it going
to again?"

In other words, some things have to be prioritised so that the whole
system works as intended. With articles "celebrating" cool hacks, and
the like, it's clear that some people prioritise arguably less
important things (in the context of successful real-world systems)
than others.

Paul
phil hunt
2002-05-20 07:21:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Boddie
In other words, some things have to be prioritised so that the whole
system works as intended. With articles "celebrating" cool hacks, and
the like, it's clear that some people prioritise arguably less
important things (in the context of successful real-world systems)
than others.
Yes. For example, the misconception that software must be correct to
be useful --- or at least, that correctness is important to real-world
success with software --- seems to be quite widespread in some
circles.
For something like a 3D game or a spreadsheet, our industry has done a
fabulous job of convincing the general public that half-assed software is
the norm, and the best they can expect. But for elevator control software
or bullet train software, correctness is VITALLY important to real-world
success.
By "correctness" you presumably mean it is 100% guaranteed to work
100% correctly 100% of the time.

But that's an impossible standard, and is not applied to everything
else, e.g. train hardware or elevator hardware. If trains and
elevators were over-engineered to the extent that there was no
conceivable possibility of them going wrong, they would be too
cumbersome and expensive to be worth using.
--
<"><"><"> Philip Hunt <philh at comuno.freeserve.co.uk> <"><"><">
"I would guess that he really believes whatever is politically
advantageous for him to believe."
-- Alison Brooks, referring to Michael
Portillo, on soc.history.what-if
Tim Roberts
2002-05-20 04:56:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Boddie
In other words, some things have to be prioritised so that the whole
system works as intended. With articles "celebrating" cool hacks, and
the like, it's clear that some people prioritise arguably less
important things (in the context of successful real-world systems)
than others.
Yes. For example, the misconception that software must be correct to
be useful --- or at least, that correctness is important to real-world
success with software --- seems to be quite widespread in some
circles.
For something like a 3D game or a spreadsheet, our industry has done a
fabulous job of convincing the general public that half-assed software is
the norm, and the best they can expect. But for elevator control software
or bullet train software, correctness is VITALLY important to real-world
success.

I never cease to amazed by the number of of unsophisticated users I
encounter who are experiencing problems caused by faulty software testing
and are convinced that it is all their fault. Amazed, and ashamed.
--
- Tim Roberts, timr at probo.com
Providenza & Boekelheide, Inc.
Jochen Küpper
2002-05-21 01:48:48 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, 19 May 2002 21:56:08 -0700 Tim Roberts wrote:

Tim> But for elevator control software or bullet train software,
Tim> correctness is VITALLY important to real-world success.

I have "survived" too many elevators that needed a reset on a regular
basis to believe you:)

Then I hope for the trains they do it before it is actually needed, at
least.

Greetings,
Jochen
--
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit http://www.Jochen-Kuepper.de
Libert?, ?galit?, Fraternit? GnuPG key: 44BCCD8E
Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll
Kragen Sitaker
2002-05-17 08:01:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Boddie
In other words, some things have to be prioritised so that the whole
system works as intended. With articles "celebrating" cool hacks, and
the like, it's clear that some people prioritise arguably less
important things (in the context of successful real-world systems)
than others.
Yes. For example, the misconception that software must be correct to
be useful --- or at least, that correctness is important to real-world
success with software --- seems to be quite widespread in some
circles.

Don't get me wrong --- software is a lot more useful when it works
correctly, and some software does have to be correct to be useful.
But most people, most of the time, use broken software because it is
more attractive than the alternatives.
Laura Creighton
2002-05-15 16:38:58 UTC
Permalink
Computer Programmers need to go out drinking with Civil Engineers more
often. They will then get to listen to Civil Engineering students say
Programming is much simpler than Bridge Building. For one thing, the
programmer only has to deal with mathematical forms, and the products
of his own mind. Programs are not subject to physical laws, or
even geometric ones, all avenues are open to the creativity of the
programmer.
Well... one can create a program that design bridges, but one cannot
create a bridge that design programs ...
;-)
I've worked with many programs for engineering construction design
written by people whose understanding of how one designs bridges
was more wishful thinking than actual engineering practice. Please
pass me a bottle of beer.

Laura
Greg Ewing
2002-05-15 02:16:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by jmdeschamps
But programming is not building bridges or buildings; in its very
essence, its the realm of whatever is within the outer limits of human
creativity, whatever that is!
Indeed. I don't think the problem is a lack of engineering
principles, it's that we're pushing the boundaries all the
time.

If buildings were built like computer programs, every
building would be unique, not quite like any other
building ever built before, and using experimental
new materials and building techniques. And before
we'd got all the bugs out of one building, we'd be
charging ahead with the next one. Under those
conditions, I don't think the building industry would
have much of a reputation for reliability in their
products!

When we *do* settle down to work on something
properly, we seem to do a pretty good job --
unix, gcc, etc...
--
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
To get my email address, please visit my web page:
http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/~greg
Aahz
2002-05-15 20:27:38 UTC
Permalink
In article <3CE1C502.BF27501D at cosc.canterbury.ac.nz>,
If buildings were built like computer programs, every building would be
unique, not quite like any other building ever built before, and using
experimental new materials and building techniques. And before we'd got
all the bugs out of one building, we'd be charging ahead with the next
one. Under those conditions, I don't think the building industry would
have much of a reputation for reliability in their products!
To be fair, one can now purchase complete plumbing systems that are
known to work. Or are you claiming that there has been no advance in
the state of the art between machine language and Python?
--
Aahz (aahz at pythoncraft.com) <*> http://www.pythoncraft.com/

"usenet imitates usenet" --Darkhawk
Laura Creighton
2002-05-15 14:30:38 UTC
Permalink
Max M
Post by Greg Ewing
If buildings were built like computer programs, every
building would be unique, not quite like any other
building ever built before, and using experimental
new materials and building techniques. And before
we'd got all the bugs out of one building, we'd be
charging ahead with the next one. Under those
conditions, I don't think the building industry would
have much of a reputation for reliability in their
products!
Bridge building is much simpler than programming. For one thing the
customer knows what they want. They choose one bridge from one of
several in a competition. A model of the bridge can be built in
Cardboard so it can be seen.
And when the bridge is halfway done the customeres rarely asks for the
bridge to be 10 meters longer and with 4 lanes instead of 3.
If we only made the same kind of software for years and had been thought
in school exactly how to build that kind of software I would bet that it
would be great software.
Computer Programmers need to go out drinking with Civil Engineers more
often. They will then get to listen to Civil Engineering students say
things like:

Programming is much simpler than Bridge Building. For one thing, the
programmer only has to deal with mathematical forms, and the products
of his own mind. Programs are not subject to physical laws, or
even geometric ones, all avenues are open to the creativity of the
programmer.

Moreover, real-life concerns rarely influence the programmer. A new
government council, a change in suppliers, and the inevitable changes
in design that happens when one actually begins physical construction,
and hidden defects in one's design comes to light never bother the
programmer. There are no sudden requirements to use one algorithm
rather than another.

If we only made the same kinds of bridges for years, and did not
design new ones every time, in the way that computer programmers
reply on well tested software libraries, and do not reinvent software
all the time then I bet we would make great bridges, rather than the
compromised designs we do now.

--------

I move we spend more time in bars with members of other professions
that have to design things in the search for common understanding of
problems of design. This 'is it an Art?/ is it a Science?/ Poof it's
Engineering!' debate goes on wherever designers discuss what they do.
It's better with beer.

Laura Creighton
Max M
2002-05-15 16:09:17 UTC
Permalink
Computer Programmers need to go out drinking with Civil Engineers more
often. They will then get to listen to Civil Engineering students say
Programming is much simpler than Bridge Building. For one thing, the
programmer only has to deal with mathematical forms, and the products
of his own mind. Programs are not subject to physical laws, or
even geometric ones, all avenues are open to the creativity of the
programmer.
Well... one can create a program that design bridges, but one cannot
create a bridge that design programs ...

;-)

Max M
Greg Ewing
2002-05-16 00:43:51 UTC
Permalink
Well... one can create a program that design bridges, but one cannot
create a bridge that design programs ...
In Sarah Douglass's fantasy series (the one starting
with Battleaxe) there's a bridge that you can hold
conversations with...
--
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
To get my email address, please visit my web page:
http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/~greg
Peter Hansen
2002-05-16 05:38:03 UTC
Permalink
And when the bridge is halfway done the customeres rarely asks for the
bridge to be 10 meters longer and with 4 lanes instead of 3.
Maybe if customers who commission computer programs
were educated to regard this as just as unreasonable
as it would obviously be when commissioning a bridge,
things might be better...
XP takes the view that this is not an entirely unreasonable
thing for software. Software is rather more malleable than
bridges, and can handle significantly greater change at much
later stages of development (when developed in an appropriately
agile fashion, such as with XP).

Now asking for your bridge to be a skyscraper instead is
just going too far, even for software....

-Peter
Max M
2002-05-15 06:20:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Greg Ewing
If buildings were built like computer programs, every
building would be unique, not quite like any other
building ever built before, and using experimental
new materials and building techniques. And before
we'd got all the bugs out of one building, we'd be
charging ahead with the next one. Under those
conditions, I don't think the building industry would
have much of a reputation for reliability in their
products!
Bridge building is much simpler than programming. For one thing the
customer knows what they want. They choose one bridge from one of
several in a competition. A model of the bridge can be built in
Cardboard so it can be seen.

And when the bridge is halfway done the customeres rarely asks for the
bridge to be 10 meters longer and with 4 lanes instead of 3.

If we only made the same kind of software for years and had been thought
in school exactly how to build that kind of software I would bet that it
would be great software.

regards Max M
Greg Ewing
2002-05-15 23:59:27 UTC
Permalink
And when the bridge is halfway done the customeres rarely asks for the
bridge to be 10 meters longer and with 4 lanes instead of 3.
Maybe if customers who commission computer programs
were educated to regard this as just as unreasonable
as it would obviously be when commissioning a bridge,
things might be better...
--
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
To get my email address, please visit my web page:
http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/~greg
Laura Creighton
2002-05-15 03:52:42 UTC
Permalink
This is exactly right, and it is an important point. As long as programs
continue to be essentially "hand-crafted", we will never be able to build
reliable large systems. Only when programming ceases to be art and moves
into the realm of engineering -- like building a bridge or a building --
will we get the reliability that we really need in order to create the
large systems that the twenty-first century demands.
You appear to have mistaken Art for Handicrafts. All things which are
designed are Arts. Being an art (or being a craft for that matter) has
nothing to do with whether something is unreliable. There is a great
deal of prejudice between 'Artists who hate Technology' and 'Technologists
who hate Art', but at the top level of the profession -- you do both.

Laura Creighton
Andrew Dalke
2002-05-14 17:31:37 UTC
Permalink
...
Is it just a gut feeling, or do you really have specific examples on
which you base these claims?
Well, in writing Perl modules I could continue to use(to access a data
..
print $guy->name("John");
..
print $guy->name="John";
That still follows under "gut feeling" since Python has almost
identical mechanisms, and then some, so your "specific example"
is actually a counter example since there are more ways to do it
in Python. (I could also add __setattribute__ to the mix.)

# NOTE: I consider this to be an ugly style and advise people
# they they shouldn't use it. I write it to make it similar to
# the Perl code.
class Person:
def name(self, name = None):
if name is not None:
self.name = name
return self.name

print guy.name("John")

# This is much more typical Python
class Person:
def __init__(self, name = None):
self.name = name

guy = Person()
guy.name = "John"
print guy.name

# This reimplements the attribute lookup using the older-style
# __getattr__/__setattr__ hooks.
class Person:
def __init__(self, name = None):
self._name = name
def __getattr__(self, key):
if key == "name":
return self._name
return getattr(self, key)
def __setattr__(self, key, value):
if key == "name":
if value == "":
raise TypeError("Name must have at least one letter")
self._name = value
return
self.__dict__[key] = value

guy = Person()
guy.name = "John"
print guy.name


# This is a new (2.2) way to implement attribute lookup
class Person(object):
def _getName(self):
return self._name
def _setName(self, val):
if val == "":
raise TypeError("Name must have at least one letter")
self._name = val
name = property(_getName, _setName)
p = Person()
p.name = "John"
print p.name
John
p.name = ""
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in ?
File "<stdin>", line 6, in _setName
TypeError: Name must have at least one letter
Andrew
dalke at dalkescientific.com
Max M
2002-05-13 10:56:58 UTC
Permalink
Imagine two painters. One spends half his time at arts supplies stores,
checking out the tiniest differences between different models of
brushes, different brands of paint, canvases prepared with minutely
distinct processes yielding minute roughness and absorption differences,
and so on.
Well I sometimes play a little game for myself where I try to refactor
short snippets of code which does some common idioms.

I then try different approaches to my code. Here below is a few simple
pieces that does the same thing. From a list of objects they render a
list in html.

The funny thing I have found out is that the most elegant is often also
the fastest.

Another thing is that if you try to refactor too much and really live
out the "Don't Repeat Yourself" slogan, your code will get harder to
read and maintain.

Also it works best if you use different "shades" of Python to solve
specific "shades" of problems that are quite similar.

So there really is a lot of craftsmanship in writing good code.

regards Max M

################################################################3


# object.id
# object.title
# object.summary
# object.objectType

# listOfObjects # List of objects



# typical code from a new programmer (603 chars)
def listView(listOfObjects):
result = ''
for object in listOfObjects:
if (object.objectType = 'folder'
or object.objectType = 'content holder':
result = result + '<img src="folder.gif">'
else:
result = result + '<img src="content.gif">'
result = result + object.title + '<br>'
result = result + '<font size="-1"><b>' + object.summary \
+ '</b></font>'
result = result + '[<a href="view.asp?id=' + object.id \
+ '">View</a>]'
result = result + '[<a href="edit.asp?id=' + object.id \
+ '">Edit</a>]<br>'
return result



# completely refactored, no redundancy (579 chars)
def listView(listOfObjects):
result = []
a = result.append
href = '[<a href="%s.asp?id=%s">%s</a>]'
img = '<img src="%s">'
for object in listOfObjects:
if object.objectType in ['folder', 'content holder']:
a(img % 'folder.gif')
else:
a(img % 'content.gif')
a('%s<br>' % object.title)
a('<font size="-1"><b>%s</b></font>' % object.summary)
oId = object.id
a(href % ('view', oId, 'View'))
a(href % ('edit', oId, 'Edit'))
a('<br>')
return ''.join(result)



# template based (539 chars)
def listView(listOfObjects):
result = []
rTxt = """<img src="%(type)s.gif">
%(title)s<br>
<font size="-1"><b>%(summary)s</b></font>
[<a href="view.asp?id=%(id)s">View</a>]
[<a href="edit.asp?id=%(id)s">Edit</a>]<br>""
for object in listOfObjects:
if object.objectType in ['folder', 'content holder']:
vars_ = {'type':'folder'}
else:
vars_ = {'type':'content'}
vars_.update(vars(object))
result.append(rTxt % vars_)
return ''.join(result)



# Best practice (519 chars)
def listView(listOfObjects):
result = []
a = result.append
for object in listOfObjects:
if object.objectType in ['folder', 'content holder']:
a('<img src="folder.gif">')
else:
a('<img src="content.gif">')
a('%s<br>' % object.title)
a('<font size="-1"><b>%s</b></font>' % object.summary)
a('[<a href="view.asp?id=%s">View</a>]' % object.id)
a('[<a href="edit.asp?id=%s">Edit</a>]<br>' % object.id)
return ''.join(result)
Andrew Dalke
2002-05-13 16:55:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Max M
# Best practice (519 chars)
result = []
a = result.append
a('<img src="folder.gif">')
a('<img src="content.gif">')
a('%s<br>' % object.title)
a('<font size="-1"><b>%s</b></font>' % object.summary)
a('[<a href="view.asp?id=%s">View</a>]' % object.id)
a('[<a href="edit.asp?id=%s">Edit</a>]<br>' % object.id)
return ''.join(result)
Why is this 'best practice'? At the very least, I would have used
"append = result.append" because "a" can be confused (in an HTML context)
for the request to do an "a" tag.

Have you considered this alternative?

import cgi, urllib
class ListViewAdapter:
funcs = {"quote": urllib.quote,
"escape": cgi.escape,
"str": str}
img = {"folder": "folder.gif",
"content holder": "folder.gif"}
def __init__(self, obj):
self.obj = obj
def __getitem__(self, item):
terms = item.split("|")
name, terms = terms[0], terms[1:]
if name == "gifimage":
s = self.img.get(self.obj.objectType, "content.gif")
else:
s = getattr(self.obj, name)
for term in terms:
s = self.funcs[term](s)
return s

def listView(listOfObjects):
template = """\
<img src="%(gifimage)s">%(title|escape)s<br>
<font size="-1"><b>%(summary|escape)s</b></font>
[<a href="view.asp?id=?%(id|quote)s">View</a>]
[<a href="edit.asp?id=%(id|quote)s">Edit</a>]<br>
"""
return "".join([ template % ListViewAdapter(obj)
for obj in listOfObjects ])

It's a bit more complicated than yours partially because
you don't have the code for escaping special characters
inside of HTML text and or quoting characters inside
of HTML tags.

What it does is leverage Python's string interpolation
to get the attribute you want to use, and optionally apply
any set of transformations you want done on that value. The
result makes it much easier to see how the HTML looks
in one go rather than building it up through many
Python commands.

Andrew
dalke at dalkescientific.com
Max M
2002-05-13 20:52:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Andrew Dalke
Post by Max M
# Best practice (519 chars)
result = []
a = result.append
a('<img src="folder.gif">')
a('<img src="content.gif">')
a('%s<br>' % object.title)
a('<font size="-1"><b>%s</b></font>' % object.summary)
a('[<a href="view.asp?id=%s">View</a>]' % object.id)
a('[<a href="edit.asp?id=%s">Edit</a>]<br>' % object.id)
return ''.join(result)
Why is this 'best practice'? At the very least, I would have used
"append = result.append" because "a" can be confused (in an HTML context)
for the request to do an "a" tag
Oh ... you misunderstand my goal with this "game". The aim is not to do
things absolutely correctly, but to get the same result from different
versions of the code.

Trying to refactor it with different aprocahes to get a feel for what
works in different situations.

By best practice I only meant that it was the best overall approach for
refactoring this piece of code I could think of at the time.
Post by Andrew Dalke
The result makes it much easier to see how the HTML looks in one go
rather than building it up through many Python commands.
Yes, your aproach certainly has some merrit.

regards Max M
Alex Martelli
2002-05-13 12:34:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Max M
Imagine two painters. One spends half his time at arts supplies stores,
checking out the tiniest differences between different models of
brushes, different brands of paint, canvases prepared with minutely
distinct processes yielding minute roughness and absorption differences,
...
Post by Max M
So there really is a lot of craftsmanship in writing good code.
There can be -- as there can be in painting. But given a finite amount
of time and energy to spend on all kinds of issues altogether, what IS
the allocation of these "scarce resources" that's likely to have the
higher overall returns -- spend more time/energy on worrying about what
kind of brush is fractionally better, or on what to portray and how?

The overall cultural bias of today is towards "gadget-o-mania" -- the
quest for the Silver Bullet, the gadget / trick / technology / toy that
will solve every problem. And, sure, the technology does matter, A
BIT. A good golfer uses good clubs, a good runner good shoes, a good
bridge player a good bidding system, a good "human networker" uses a
good mobile phone, a good coder uses good idioms of his or her chosen
programming language. But it's easier to overdo the attention to such
tool-level details, than to make the opposite mistake. I've seen too
many bridge players worrying to death about a pluperfect bidding system
rather than choosing a solid, sensible one, and focusing on using it
effectively in real life, which is in fact a far more important task.
Golfers tell me the same about their ilk, runners about theirs, etc --
and again from personal observation the same phenomenon is amply in
evidence in programming, too.

I sympathize -- the tools-level part is just SO interesting and fun,
I, myself, would be quite prone to spend all my bridge-available time
and energy on bidding-system issues, all my programming-available
time on clever idioms, classes, extensions &c, and so on, and so forth.

Exactly *because* overdoing the tools-level concerns is by far the
likelier trap, Python's culture, that de-emphasizes them in favour
of real design and architecture issues, is such a boon to most of
its practitioners. *Do the simplest thing that can possibly work*.


Alex
Aahz
2002-05-15 20:22:04 UTC
Permalink
In article <23891c90.0205130956.6f0436a0 at posting.google.com>,
This is one thing I strongly dislike about the "Perl attitude" to
programming, along with the "coding is an art not a science" viewpoint
and the "code is poetry" school of thought. Programming and coding are
(or should mostly be) sciences or engineering practices which we
should strive to get right every time - programmers and developers
are, after all, writing instructions for machines which pretty much
have to do the right thing all the time, not just when it's "cool" to
do so (or not to do so).
I'm in the "programming is craft" camp. Any time we write a new
program, there's an element of human interface to consider; that can
never be primarily a function of engineering. But we can all strive to
learn best practices like a cook or woodworker, and we can pick up new
tools as they become available.
--
Aahz (aahz at pythoncraft.com) <*> http://www.pythoncraft.com/

"usenet imitates usenet" --Darkhawk
Paul Boddie
2002-05-20 15:17:15 UTC
Permalink
The baroque went out of fashion over 200 years ago. Art is not merely
decorative and for amusement.
Yes, but can computers appreciate art? ;-)

Paul
Jacob Hallen
2002-05-18 22:45:18 UTC
Permalink
In article <23891c90.0205160610.2f7f22c0 at posting.google.com>,
I can understand people believing that the expression of concepts
through a written language can be regarded as literature, but
programming languages are somewhat different from natural languages,
and it is certainly dubious to want to replicate certain parts of
natural languages in computer languages. "Sorry your program didn't do
what was expected of it - there's some use of double-entendre in the
code, which I thought would make the program much more amusing to
read."
The baroque went out of fashion over 200 years ago. Art is not merely
decorative and for amusement.

Jacob Hall?n

--
Steve Holden
2002-05-19 19:07:36 UTC
Permalink
"Jacob Hall?n" <jacob at boris.cd.chalmers.se.cd.chalmers.se> wrote ...
Post by Jacob Hallen
In article <23891c90.0205160610.2f7f22c0 at posting.google.com>,
I can understand people believing that the expression of concepts
through a written language can be regarded as literature, but
programming languages are somewhat different from natural languages,
and it is certainly dubious to want to replicate certain parts of
natural languages in computer languages. "Sorry your program didn't do
what was expected of it - there's some use of double-entendre in the
code, which I thought would make the program much more amusing to
read."
The baroque went out of fashion over 200 years ago. Art is not merely
decorative and for amusement.
This hasn't stopped some pretty baroque architectures being designed for
software systems. In my experience, the more baroque the architecture the
less experienced the designer (which is why I sometimes disparagingly refer
to microsoft systems as being written by recent graduates. We all have to
learn somehow ;-)

regards
Steve
--
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Steve Holden http://www.holdenweb.com/
Python Web Programming http://pydish.holdenweb.com/pwp/
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Paul Boddie
2002-05-16 14:10:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Aahz
I'm in the "programming is craft" camp. Any time we write a new
program, there's an element of human interface to consider; that can
never be primarily a function of engineering. But we can all strive to
learn best practices like a cook or woodworker, and we can pick up new
tools as they become available.
I agree with you in many respects - the most important thing about
working in any industry is to keep up with the best practices in that
industry. Really, programming is design, though, if any overloaded or
contentious words are to be used. Even in works of industrial design,
to take an example, certain artifacts can be considered artistic and
even more legitimate than certain recognised kinds of art, despite
various movements against industrialisation. Thus, programming should
be able to inspire artistic recognition through practices of good
design (the most important part of the activity) without resorting to
frivolously-decorative coding practices.

I can understand people believing that the expression of concepts
through a written language can be regarded as literature, but
programming languages are somewhat different from natural languages,
and it is certainly dubious to want to replicate certain parts of
natural languages in computer languages. "Sorry your program didn't do
what was expected of it - there's some use of double-entendre in the
code, which I thought would make the program much more amusing to
read."

Paul
Max M
2002-05-14 15:08:43 UTC
Permalink
I believe you're confusing two separate issues. Passion and
art are orthogonal concepts. I have a great deal of passion
for programming and technology. I just don't need to find
non-practical "artistic" approaches to doing it most of the
time. I take pleasure in noticing the occasional exceptionally
elegant design or approach, but to make those an explicit goal
is, to me, counter-productive. But I guess we're way into
religious territory, so I've said enough... :-)
Programming is, like cooking, not an art but a craft.

regards Max M
Oleg Broytmann
2002-05-14 15:24:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Max M
Programming is, like cooking, not an art but a craft.
Exactly like cooking, programming is both art and a craft.

Oleg.
--
Oleg Broytmann http://phd.pp.ru/ phd at phd.pp.ru
Programmers don't die, they just GOSUB without RETURN.
Tim Roberts
2002-05-14 06:01:03 UTC
Permalink
Since Perl people like the analogy to human languages, it's like me
saying I drink 'soda's while people in the Midwest drink 'pop'.
This is one thing I strongly dislike about the "Perl attitude" to
programming, along with the "coding is an art not a science" viewpoint
and the "code is poetry" school of thought. Programming and coding are
(or should mostly be) sciences or engineering practices which we
should strive to get right every time - programmers and developers
are, after all, writing instructions for machines which pretty much
have to do the right thing all the time, not just when it's "cool" to
do so (or not to do so).
This is exactly right, and it is an important point. As long as programs
continue to be essentially "hand-crafted", we will never be able to build
reliable large systems. Only when programming ceases to be art and moves
into the realm of engineering -- like building a bridge or a building --
will we get the reliability that we really need in order to create the
large systems that the twenty-first century demands.
--
- Tim Roberts, timr at probo.com
Providenza & Boekelheide, Inc.
Jacob Hallen
2002-05-20 14:03:28 UTC
Permalink
In article <ht91eus6861nu2am7164l8ui9925rmu5sn at 4ax.com>,
This is exactly right, and it is an important point. As long as programs
continue to be essentially "hand-crafted", we will never be able to build
reliable large systems. Only when programming ceases to be art and moves
into the realm of engineering -- like building a bridge or a building --
will we get the reliability that we really need in order to create the
large systems that the twenty-first century demands.
These assertions are all false.

You can build hand-crafted large systems. It requires skill and understanding.

However, what the twenty-first century needs is interoperating small systems.
The fundaments on which Agile Programming is built clearly show that
programming must be a craft, since it contains elements of necessary
improvisation at every level of development. The steel and concrete you
use to build bridges are homogenous materials that can be moulded into
standardised shapes. The points where the bridge connects to the landscape
can similarly be moulded to a suitable shape that accomodates the bridge.

Software on the other hand is build out of ideas that do not come in
standard shapes and it needs to connect to human minds, which are hard
to mould to any desired shape.

Time has shown that large systems have a large range of problems, in
development, use and modification. One of the most important crafts in
software development is therefore the one of breaking large systems into
smaller, autonomous ones that can interact with each other when needed.

Just like it required the development of technology that exceeded humans
in the amount of power output to replace menial labour and technology
that exceeded human precision and human speed in order to replace human
manufacted goods creation, it is going to require an artificial intelligence
that is superior to human intelligence to turn software creation into
an industrial process.

Jacob Hall?n

--
Tim Roberts
2002-05-22 05:28:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jacob Hallen
Software on the other hand is build out of ideas that do not come in
standard shapes and it needs to connect to human minds, which are hard
to mould to any desired shape.
Exactly. And as long as we continue to think about software in that way,
we will not be able to create vast systems reliably. One human being, no
matter how clever or skilled, simply cannot fully grasp the software
required to run a global telephone system, or the full complement of
software needed to control an interplanetary cruise chip, for example.

I grant that it won't be nearly as much fun to be a programmer when putting
together software becomes as complicated as connecting together a component
stereo system, but we have to get to that point eventually, or we will
simply outgrow our own abilities.
Post by Jacob Hallen
Just like it required the development of technology that exceeded humans
in the amount of power output to replace menial labour and technology
that exceeded human precision and human speed in order to replace human
manufacted goods creation, it is going to require an artificial intelligence
that is superior to human intelligence to turn software creation into
an industrial process.
Yes, I would agree with that.
--
- Tim Roberts, timr at probo.com
Providenza & Boekelheide, Inc.
Anton Vredegoor
2002-05-13 09:18:05 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, 13 May 2002 01:33:54 -0600, "Andrew Dalke"
That's not to say that Python isn't colorful or has its own set of
alternatives. But the Python way isn't "There's More Than One Way
To Do It" nor the opposite of "There's one and only one way to do it"
but instead is "There should be one -- and preferably only one --
obvious way to do it." Those "preferably" and "obvious" qualifiers
are important.
Sometimes when programming numerical python or three D models there
goes a lot of thinking inside very few lines of code. As an example
there's a program for visual python below that draws a colored cube.
It was originally a lot longer before I condensed it into this simpler
form. I suspect if all this simplifying and condensing would go on the
result would be the ultimate program of length zero.

Anton.

#cube.py for visual python, by Anton Vredegoor
# (anton at vredegoor.doge.nl) may 2002
"""
This program draws a 3d cube with colored sides.To rotate
the cube press the right-mouse button and move the mouse.
To resize the cube press the middle mouse button and move
the mouse in the up-down direction.The cube is drawn side
after side, each side is drawn by drawing two triangles.
Cornerpoints are identified by numbers and unranked to lists
of 3 items which represent coordinates in xyz dimensions.
"""

from visual import *

def unrank(id):
res = [1] * 3
for i in range(2,-1,-1):
if id & 1 :
res[i] *= -1
id >>= 1
return res

def drawside(idlist,clr):
faces(pos=[unrank(id) for id in idlist], color=clr, frame=f,
normal=unrank(0))

def test():
global f
f = frame()
#Colordata in rgb fractions. The six colors below have the
#follwowing order: orange,red,yellow,green,white,blue
colors = [[1.0,0.5,0.0], [0.75,0.0,0.0], [1.0,0.9,0.0],
[0.0,0.70,0.0], [0.95,0.95,0.95], [0.0,0.0,0.75]]
#For each side two triangles are drawn from six corner
#point id's. The six sides are drawn in this order: right,
#left,front,back,top,bottom
idlists = [[1,2,3,0,2,1],[5,6,4,7,6,5], [0,6,2,4,6,0],
[3,5,1,7,5,3], [1,4,0,5,4,1], [3,6,7,2,6,3]]
for idlist, color in map(None,idlists,colors):
drawside(idlist,color)

if __name__=='__main__':
test()
Peter Hansen
2002-05-13 23:58:49 UTC
Permalink
...
Post by Chris
While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
[...]
In the end I'm not trying to say Python's approach is bad. Quite the
contrary, I like Python quite a bit, and have defended it amongst Perl
devotees. I just think that there is an advantage to a bit of
ambiguity, at times.
You've said there's a danger in things being too obvious, and that there
are advantages to a bit of ambiguity, but you haven't yet stated what
that danger nor what those advantages might be.

Is it just a gut feeling, or do you really have specific examples on
which you base these claims?

Personally, I reject both of them outright, after starting with the
premise that when programming I'm engaged in a practical endeavour,
not an artistic one.

-Peter
Peter Hansen
2002-05-14 11:55:09 UTC
Permalink
In article <3CE05339.6660B6BA at engcorp.com>,
Post by Peter Hansen
You've said there's a danger in things being too obvious, and that there
are advantages to a bit of ambiguity, but you haven't yet stated what
that danger nor what those advantages might be.
The danger is stagnation. A certain approach works, so that's what gets
used, even when there are other better(shorter, more readable, more
consistent, more elegant, faster, more "direct", etc.) ways of
approaching a problem.
Seems to me that the obvious approach is highly likely already to be
the shorter, more readable, more consistent, etc. approach, but maybe
that's just me...
Post by Peter Hansen
Personally, I reject both of them outright, after starting with the
premise that when programming I'm engaged in a practical endeavour,
not an artistic one.
With all of the people I know who've gone into "computer science"
because "they can make a lot of money", and not because they have any
kind of passion for it, I take a bit of offense at that idea.
I believe you're confusing two separate issues. Passion and
art are orthogonal concepts. I have a great deal of passion
for programming and technology. I just don't need to find
non-practical "artistic" approaches to doing it most of the
time. I take pleasure in noticing the occasional exceptionally
elegant design or approach, but to make those an explicit goal
is, to me, counter-productive. But I guess we're way into
religious territory, so I've said enough... :-)

-Peter
Chris
2002-05-14 03:10:34 UTC
Permalink
In article <3CE05339.6660B6BA at engcorp.com>,
Post by Peter Hansen
...
Post by Chris
While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
[...]
In the end I'm not trying to say Python's approach is bad. Quite the
contrary, I like Python quite a bit, and have defended it amongst Perl
devotees. I just think that there is an advantage to a bit of
ambiguity, at times.
You've said there's a danger in things being too obvious, and that there
are advantages to a bit of ambiguity, but you haven't yet stated what
that danger nor what those advantages might be.
The danger is stagnation. A certain approach works, so that's what gets
used, even when there are other better(shorter, more readable, more
consistent, more elegant, faster, more "direct", etc.) ways of
approaching a problem.

The advantage to a little bit of ambiguity is that it forces attention
to detail that really gets the neurons firing.
Post by Peter Hansen
Is it just a gut feeling, or do you really have specific examples on
which you base these claims?
Well, in writing Perl modules I could continue to use(to access a data
member of an object, stored as a hash):

package Person;
sub name {
my $self = shift;
if (@_) { my $self->{name} = shift; }
return $self->{name};
}

And use this as:

print $guy->name("John");

Or, I could try out lvalue subroutines and use something like:

package Person;
sub name : lvalue {
my $self = shift;
$self->{name};
}

print $guy->name="John";

With Ruby, my personal favorite, there are iterator methods, which
someone might never discover if they were content to simply use for
loops. Or they could manually construct accessor methods for classes,
since that works perfectly well, even though it's nowhere near as
elegant as attr_accessor/attr_reader/attr_writer.
Post by Peter Hansen
Personally, I reject both of them outright, after starting with the
premise that when programming I'm engaged in a practical endeavour,
not an artistic one.
With all of the people I know who've gone into "computer science"
because "they can make a lot of money", and not because they have any
kind of passion for it, I take a bit of offense at that idea.
Chris
2002-05-13 17:15:43 UTC
Permalink
In article <9LJD8.34714$CN3.1229512 at news2.tin.it>,
...
Post by Chris
While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
The Python culture, by not particularly valuing "creativity" at the
lowest levels of programming, just frees up creative juices for use
where you get the best returns on them -- overall system architecture,
algorithms, sophisticated data structures.
I agree, and I see this kind of debate happening in the Perl community,
with questions regularly asked about high-level tasks. These too get
diverse answers, and I think it's because the language ingrains a
certain curiousity in programmers about whether or not there might just
be another way of getting these a little quicker and/or a little more
directly.

In the end I'm not trying to say Python's approach is bad. Quite the
contrary, I like Python quite a bit, and have defended it amongst Perl
devotees. I just think that there is an advantage to a bit of
ambiguity, at times.

Then again, maybe I'm just caught up in Perl6 anticipation. :-)
Paul Boddie
2002-05-13 17:56:16 UTC
Permalink
Since Perl people like the analogy to human languages, it's like me
saying I drink 'soda's while people in the Midwest drink 'pop'.
This is one thing I strongly dislike about the "Perl attitude" to
programming, along with the "coding is an art not a science" viewpoint
and the "code is poetry" school of thought. Programming and coding are
(or should mostly be) sciences or engineering practices which we
should strive to get right every time - programmers and developers
are, after all, writing instructions for machines which pretty much
have to do the right thing all the time, not just when it's "cool" to
do so (or not to do so).

Certainly, the number of situations where poetry-as-code is acceptable
should be much fewer than seems to be the case today, and I'm not just
referring to situations where Very Expensive Spacecraft must avoid
just dropping into the ocean because it "felt like it". Even in "home
computing", people get frustrated when programs crash, leading to bad
experiences and a negative impression of a technology that should be
beneficial. Newcomers to computing must sometimes wonder what the
profession has been up to for the last 50 years...

Paul
Chris
2002-05-13 17:15:07 UTC
Permalink
In article <9LJD8.34714$CN3.1229512 at news2.tin.it>,
...
Post by Chris
While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
The Python culture, by not particularly valuing "creativity" at the
lowest levels of programming, just frees up creative juices for use
where you get the best returns on them -- overall system architecture,
algorithms, sophisticated data structures.
I agree, and I see this kind of debate happening in the Perl community,
with questions regularly asked about high-level tasks. These too get
diverse answers, and I think it's because the language ingrains a
certain curiousity in programmers about whether or not there might just
be another way of getting these a little quicker and/or a little more
directly.

In the end I'm not trying to say Python's approach is bad. Quite the
contrary, I like Python quite a bit, and have defended it amongst Perl
devotees. I just think that there is an advantage to a bit of
ambiguity, at times.

Then again, maybe I'm just caught up in Perl6 anticipation. :-)
Alex Martelli
2002-05-13 07:16:21 UTC
Permalink
Chris wrote:
...
Post by Chris
While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
The Python culture, by not particularly valuing "creativity" at the
lowest levels of programming, just frees up creative juices for use
where you get the best returns on them -- overall system architecture,
algorithms, sophisticated data structures.

Imagine two painters. One spends half his time at arts supplies stores,
checking out the tiniest differences between different models of
brushes, different brands of paint, canvases prepared with minutely
distinct processes yielding minute roughness and absorption differences,
and so on. The other painter has settled on good, reliable lines of
brushes, paint and canvases, had put these minutiae basically out of
her mind, and spends her time and energy actually painting, working
out different lighting and composition techniques, and so on.

Who's the really creative painter here, and who's the one at risk
of gadgetomania? Many areas of human endeavour present similar
choices. Like most computer geeks, I'm seriously at risk of "WOW,
bright new toys!" syndrome -- the tiny differences in brushes,
paints &c, absolutely fascinate me and hold me spell-bound. I'm
thus well served by a culture that de-emphasizes this in favour
of higher-level, architectural deployment of my creativity.


Alex
Andrew Dalke
2002-05-13 07:33:54 UTC
Permalink
In the end, the best idioms become commonplace, but they become
commonplace not just because they're obvious, though that might be
the case, but because the alternatives have been explored and the
accepted approach has genuine benefits.
This requires everyone who codes in Perl to learn these idioms, and
in practice this doesn't happen. My Perl for the most part felt like
C because I expected the people who maintained my code to be primarily
C developers, so I deliberately excluded more Perlish idioms.

Since Perl people like the analogy to human languages, it's like me
saying I drink 'soda's while people in the Midwest drink 'pop'. (These
are regional dialects in the US. Elsewhere uses other terms, like
'cooldrink') There isn't a genuine benefit of one over the other, so
other effects dominate, and leaves me confused when I don't know the
local dialect.
While I enjoy Python - and I do... it opned up the world of OO
programming for me - I think there's almost a danger in things being too
obvious. Creativity can be a messy business, but ultimately it leads to
better places.
You argue, or at least imply

Perl allows many alternatives
creativity is good
creativity can be messy
Python almost makes things 'too obvious' (suggesting perhaps adding
more alternatives)

I used to know a lot about the different ways to do things in Perl.
As far as I can tell, the creativity in its alternatives is the
creativity to choose different ways to implement a solution, but the
style of the solution doesn't change from what's possible in Python,
besides some minor differences in small problems where one language
has a built-in language feature which gives it an advantage over the
other.

By way of comparison, in elementary school I had a four-color pen.
I recall coming up with a scheme of which color should be used for
which topic. I don't recall any details so I'll make something up.
For example, in a vocabulary assignment I might use black for the
word and blue for the definition.

I spent time to decide how to express that creativity, but in the
end it didn't make any difference, since that wasn't part of the
assignment.

In other words, having a lot of alternatives doesn't have to make
things better and can make things worse because of the extra thought
needed to figure out which is proper.

That's not to say that Python isn't colorful or has its own set of
alternatives. But the Python way isn't "There's More Than One Way
To Do It" nor the opposite of "There's one and only one way to do it"
but instead is "There should be one -- and preferably only one --
obvious way to do it." Those "preferably" and "obvious" qualifiers
are important.

Andrew
dalke at dalkescientific.com
Gonçalo Rodrigues
2002-05-16 00:38:04 UTC
Permalink
On Wed, 15 May 2002 15:24:08 -0700, Cliff Wells
On Wed, 15 May 2002 13:17:19 -0400
lol! If she has, she has not let me in on the betrayal! (that would be so
'artsy fartsy' of her:) On a more serious note, I do subscribe to that old
fashioned notion of the hierarchy of value, which recognizes that some
things, some philosophies, even some cultures & art are better than others.
While Willie Nelson's 'blue eyes cryin in the rain' might not be Mozart, it
is vastly superior (in every respect) to say, the rapper of the week (or
that "modern art" that sits in front of county hall). And that ain't no
personal opinion - that is objective truth - the very foundation of the
universe, the ground of all being and meaning, agrees with this evaluation
(i.e. it is objective truth!). Indeed what is arrogant is that philosophy
so popular these days that everything is relative - that there can be no
(other than subjective) evaluation of right and wrong, good and bad, art
and, well, bad art - it is an arrogant relativism gone wild :) But none of
this has much to do with that honorable, high art of programming python, and
will be my last laugh - I mean post - on the matter ;)
"because the music he constantly plays / says nothing to _me_ about _my_ life"
[emphasis added]
There can never be an "objective" view of art. It either speaks to you or it
doesn't, but that is entirely subjective (unless of course you can prove that a
particular piece speaks to no one).
There is only one style of music that I believe is universally bad:
Heavy metal and its offsprings. Only when mixed in with other styles and
even then for the thing to function they have to be done by musicians of
the highest calibre and at their best (Young Gods, John Zorn and a few
others). And about the people that like Heavy metal, well, what can I
say? Just look at them banging their heads and spreading their dandruff
for a quarter of a mile ;-)

Best,
Gon?alo Rodrigues
Cliff Wells
2002-05-16 16:35:30 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, 16 May 2002 01:38:04 +0100
Post by Gonçalo Rodrigues
On Wed, 15 May 2002 15:24:08 -0700, Cliff Wells
There can never be an "objective" view of art. It either speaks to you or it
doesn't, but that is entirely subjective (unless of course you can prove that a
particular piece speaks to no one).
Heavy metal and its offsprings. Only when mixed in with other styles and
even then for the thing to function they have to be done by musicians of
the highest calibre and at their best (Young Gods, John Zorn and a few
others). And about the people that like Heavy metal, well, what can I
say? Just look at them banging their heads and spreading their dandruff
for a quarter of a mile ;-)
Oh. So _now_ you're saying dandruff isn't art. Haven't you seen "The
Breakfast Club"?
--
Cliff Wells, Software Engineer
Logiplex Corporation (www.logiplex.net)
(503) 978-6726 x308 (800) 735-0555 x308
Huaiyu Zhu
2002-05-20 06:32:52 UTC
Permalink
"Huaiyu Zhu" <huaiyu at gauss.almadan.ibm.com> wrote ...
Well, perhaps he was arguing that such instruments represent an extension to
the human senses. Before charging the epistomological barricades, however,
you should consider whether Christopher isn't trying to represent the same
point of view promnoted by (for example) Bertrand Russell. The point is that
the only basis we ever have for knowledge is the interpretation of
sense-data - quite simply, the human organism isn't built to accept
information in any other way.
I actually understand his point (but I really dislike his argument).
Thus, no matter how sophisticated the "amplification" of our senses provided
by instrumentation, there is really no way to conclude whether our
interpretation relates to an "objective reality", since even if we assume
that there *is* such a thing as objective reality we have no way to perceive
it other than by interpretation of sense-data.
But we have no way to distinguish between physical properties and social
interactions, since the only ways we can communicate involve agreement about
the ground-rules. It is, for example, very difficult to engage in
philosophical discussions with a determined solipsist, who sees all
perceptions as generated by the operation of her own senses - that is,
"objective reality" is produced by the operation of the human brain.
Therefore you are, to a solipsist, simply a manifestation of their own
thought processes, and have no objective (i.e. external) reality atr all.
I would not want to argue with a solipsist at all. I would just agree
completely with her, that the whole world, including myself, is merely an
illusion generated in her mind. But it is very interesting to observe that
these "illusions" have certain patterns and predictabilities. You could
reason about them *as if* they are real objects. Of course they are all
illusions, but you could observe that some illusions are more likely to be
confirmed by your later illusion than others. For example, if you have the
illusion that you are puting your hand in fire, it is very unlikely for you
to experience an illusion of not being hurt afterwards.

If she plays with illusions as a scientist observing nature, she might get
some illusions as if she discovered some laws of nature. If she played with
illusions of persuing consistency in her reasoning, she might get the
illusion of studying mathematical structures. Illusions with such
properties are intriguing and interesting and useful as precursors of other
satisfying illusions, such as humans being able to build machines that work
for them.

Of course all these would just be her imagination, and I'd completely agree
with her. I'd just like to drop the word illusion from all these sentences
for brevity, as they are everywhere and can be pasted back whenever
necessary. At this point she might get the illusion that her illusion of me
have been arguing with her all the time. Of course, my tricky stubbornness
is only in her imagination.

Huaiyu
Laura Creighton
2002-05-16 00:27:26 UTC
Permalink
There can never be an "objective" view of art. It either speaks to you or it
doesn't, but that is entirely subjective (unless of course you can prove
that a particular piece speaks to no one).
Have you read Christopher Alexander's _The Timeless Art of Building_?
'The Quality Without a Name' -- entirely subjective ?

Laura Creighton
Bengt Richter
2002-05-17 01:34:00 UTC
Permalink
The ability to rank something and whether it is objective or not are
independent concepts.
But for the ranking to be objective, it has to be
independent of the person doing the ranking.
I could find the 3 best, and the 2 worst with no trouble, and there
was broad consensus in the room about this. There was disagreement
as to the precise ranking, however.
Which says to me that the ranking process is *not*
completely objective. Not because the process involves
people using their senses, but because the result
depends on who is doing it.
I agree. Chacun a son gout. The way your brain modulates whatever is
the basis of your conscious experience of enjoyment is peculiar to you,
though we can usefully assume there are similarities.

I've heard of a wine taster who has synaesthesia that gives him
texture sensations that normally come from touching various spiky
or velvety or glassy etc. surfaces. This gives him the ability to
recognize a wine that he has tasted before based on sensations that
'normal' people don't experience.

I am sure that helps him classify wines in a much richer feature space,
but does that mean I will enjoy his recommended wines? Not necessarily.
It might be a good bet, that's all. IMO ranking wine generates possibly
useful statistics about wine/winetaster relationships, but nothing purely
about the wine.

Learning to recognize what someone else enjoys is no substitute for
learning to recognize what you yourself enjoy, though it will help
you be nice to your significant someone else, if you pay attention
to the right authority ;-)

Regards,
Bengt Richter
Huaiyu Zhu
2002-05-18 01:07:07 UTC
Permalink
"James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com> wrote in message
[...]
Laura's choice of a particularly subjective example actually underscores
the point. Although there is a lot of inescapable subjectivity regarding
ranking wines, a general consensus nevertheless emerged regarding a great
number of "measurements".
It's possible that this consensus emerges as a result of training, rather
than as a result of any quality inherent in the wine. Or, on second
thoughts, both: An aspiring wine taster learns to recognise and appreciate
the very qualities that an expert has determined to be "good". To some
extent, the choice of these qualities is arbitrary, but once they've been
adequately described and considered authoritative, they can be recognised
and, to some extent, measured. Of course that says very little about whether
the tasters are recognising "quality", rather than "a quality". The latter
seems far more likely to me (which in no way undermines the value of refined
taste).
It is also possible that all these are true, namely, rankings are influenced
by inherent properties of the object being ranked, by circumstantial
conditions of the person doing the ranking and by social conditions that
have positive feedback on collective behavior. Generally we say it is
subjective if the result varies a great deal depending on the personal
circumstances; we say it is objective if it is quite uniform under most
circumstances.

Those rankings that are really objective usually turn out to be quantifiable
and could be performed by machines. Those that cannot be measured often
turn out to be not as objective as once believed. This is not a statement
on the a priori dependency between objectivity and measurability, but rather
a reflection on the unreliability of human beings as ranking machines.

Huaiyu
Cliff Wells
2002-05-15 22:24:08 UTC
Permalink
On Wed, 15 May 2002 13:17:19 -0400
lol! If she has, she has not let me in on the betrayal! (that would be so
'artsy fartsy' of her:) On a more serious note, I do subscribe to that old
fashioned notion of the hierarchy of value, which recognizes that some
things, some philosophies, even some cultures & art are better than others.
While Willie Nelson's 'blue eyes cryin in the rain' might not be Mozart, it
is vastly superior (in every respect) to say, the rapper of the week (or
that "modern art" that sits in front of county hall). And that ain't no
personal opinion - that is objective truth - the very foundation of the
universe, the ground of all being and meaning, agrees with this evaluation
(i.e. it is objective truth!). Indeed what is arrogant is that philosophy
so popular these days that everything is relative - that there can be no
(other than subjective) evaluation of right and wrong, good and bad, art
and, well, bad art - it is an arrogant relativism gone wild :) But none of
this has much to do with that honorable, high art of programming python, and
will be my last laugh - I mean post - on the matter ;)
I'm reminded of the Smith's "Hang the DJ":

"because the music he constantly plays / says nothing to _me_ about _my_ life"
[emphasis added]

There can never be an "objective" view of art. It either speaks to you or it
doesn't, but that is entirely subjective (unless of course you can prove that a
particular piece speaks to no one).
--
Cliff Wells, Software Engineer
Logiplex Corporation (www.logiplex.net)
(503) 978-6726 x308 (800) 735-0555 x308
David K. Trudgett
2002-05-13 00:32:11 UTC
Permalink
BTW, the idea of Perl Golf is interesting, but unapplied to Python. It
is possible to write short ugly programs in Python, but I would not to make
them the goal of a contest.
I'd better see a contest for "Python elegance", but unfortunately
"elegance" is hard (though not impossible) to measure.
That was my thought exactly. It's kind of a cool idea, but measuring the
wrong thing. The shortest programs may have hack value, but they're
It's just a bit of fun, of course, like doing cryptic crosswords. Perl
happens to be great for doing stuff like that. Python isn't. It's as
simple as that. To say that these programs "aren't readable,
maintainable" etc is most amusing in itself, because that is not the
purpose of these little "hacklets" (hey, I think I just (re?)invented
a word).

If you want readable, use Python by all means (although Perl can be
just as readable). An interesting observation is this: the difference
between the beginner's Python code and the expert's Python code is
less than the difference between the beginner's Perl code and the
expert's Perl code. This is actually the origin of "Python is more
readable", which it is. It's difficult to write unintelligible code in
Python (though I'm sure it's possible -- there are people with lots of
talent out there ;-)), whereas, it's relatively easy in Perl.


David Trudgett
Donn Cave
2002-05-17 18:56:34 UTC
Permalink
Quoth "James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com>:
| Donn Cave wrote:
|> What does "subjective" mean? Applicable only to the individual self
|> and without relevance to anyone else?
|
| 1. existing in a person's mind and not produced by things outside it, not
| objective.
| 2. depending on personal taste or views, etc.

1. Arguably the empty set, unless your person has some supernatural
power to generate something ab nihilo. (Mine doesn't.)

2. OK then, I take "personal" to my question in the affirmative.

|> If so, then I think I'm hearing
|> that a lot of what we call subjective, isn't. Presumably because we
|> aren't all so different after all, and though we don't fully understand
|> the basis for our reactions to things, that basis is still shared by
|> any being like us.
|
| I agree that many things often regarded subjective are not subjective at all.
|
| E.g., beauty. People say beauty is in the mind of the beholder but I would
| counter argue [... much speculation omitted.]

Actually I believe they say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but
whatever.

| ... I read somewhere that there's been a fair amount of study on this and with
| computer models of faces there is surprising human consensus about what is
| beautiful and regarding relative degrees of attractiveness.

I.e., we are not all so different after all.

|> In this analysis, we don't just happen to think Python code looks
|> better because of some inexplicable individual quirk. That seems
|> reasonable to me.
|
| This is harder because judging the 'beauty' of code is much harder to extract
| from your training and background, and what you're used to. Unlike human beauty
| you don't have any genetic predisposition one way or the other.

I don't think your genetic predisposition model for this is really very
useful, and moreover I don't think any model is necessary. I'm not trying
to establish a particular mechanical basis for beauty of code. The point
is that there surely is a basis for it, and almost as surely it applies
to everyone. We can throw the light and heavy objects off the tower and
observe that gravity has the same effect on them, and infer that this is
a general rule, without needing to understand gravitation.

| ... Similarly the omission of the several other extremely
| common and useful C idioms that are glorified in Perl is viewed as a glaring
| defect in Python. All the rationale why they're not needed and how there are
| work arounds sound (to these listeners) like so much crap. I agree it's a min
| issue but it's hard to build an objective case that Perl didn't make the bette
| choice in this regard (being one of the few places where Perl did NOT try to b
| 'inventive'). Note how often these topics come up and the answer is that "you
| have no choice, eventually you'll get used to it, once you're properly
| Pythonized it won't seem so bad..." Sounds like the epitome of SUBJECTIVE to
| me.

Yes, but here "subjective" is really about development. You can develop
in a variety of directions depending on the influences of environment,
there's no arguing that. Is there also a non-subjective factor, i.e.,
objective beauty? If we are all the same in some ways, then yes. These
two can be in conflict, hence rap music, and list comprehensions.

Donn Cave, donn at u.washington.edu
James J. Besemer
2002-05-17 21:55:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Donn Cave
| 1. existing in a person's mind and not produced by things outside it, not
| objective.
| 2. depending on personal taste or views, etc.
1. Arguably the empty set, unless your person has some supernatural
power to generate something ab nihilo. (Mine doesn't.)
(a) Not anticipating an argument, I was simply quoting the OAD's entry, FWIW.

(b) Without resorting to the supernatural, all sorts of things go on inside of MY mind
that are not produced by things outside. Imagination is a cool thing. So is
Opinion. Someone says something I think is silly. There is a stimulus of the someone
saying something but the conclusion that it is 'silly' is purely subjective in the #1
sense. Similarly, I like to believe that all my Political beliefs are firmly rooted
in concrete facts and analysis, but I bet I would have a hard time building the case
that they're truly objective.
Post by Donn Cave
I don't think your genetic predisposition model for this is really very
useful, and moreover I don't think any model is necessary.
Human beauty was offered an example of something usually thought to be subjective when
in fact it really is somewhat objective -- in agreement with your observation.

It doesn't and wasn't intended to apply to judging the beauty of code (which I argue
is mainly Subjective).
Post by Donn Cave
I'm not trying
to establish a particular mechanical basis for beauty of code. The point
is that there surely is a basis for it, and almost as surely it applies
to everyone.
I think I may agree but it's in that Nameless-Quality way that is actually fairly
subjective.

Or it may be in the Godel incompleteness theorm sense, that in many cases it may be
true but there's no way to prove it.
Post by Donn Cave
| Note how often these topics come up and the answer is that "you
| have no choice, eventually you'll get used to it, once you're properly
| Pythonized it won't seem so bad..." Sounds like the epitome of SUBJECTIVE to
| me.
Yes, but here "subjective" is really about development.
I think this is where the key disconnect happens on this issue. The original
complaint is that the decision to make the language this way is a mistake c and the
answer is about development, that it doesn't matter in the long run.
Post by Donn Cave
You can develop
in a variety of directions depending on the influences of environment,
there's no arguing that.
True.
Post by Donn Cave
Is there also a non-subjective factor, i.e.,
objective beauty? If we are all the same in some ways, then yes. These
two can be in conflict, hence rap music, and list comprehensions.
TO the extent it's objective there should be no conflict. Conflict comes from
contrary subjective views. Or 'objective' views from conflicting viewpoints, which is
the same thing.

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
Laura Creighton
2002-05-18 10:46:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Donn Cave
Yes, but here "subjective" is really about development. You can develop
in a variety of directions depending on the influences of environment,
there's no arguing that. Is there also a non-subjective factor, i.e.,
objective beauty? If we are all the same in some ways, then yes. These
two can be in conflict, hence rap music, and list comprehensions.
Donn Cave, donn at u.washington.edu
--
This is the basis of the distinction between 'style' and 'beauty'.
The word 'taste' is used, nowadays, to indicate both the appreciation
of beauty and the appreciation of a certain style or fashion. This
confusion is most unfortunate. It is tragic, but not uncommon for people
to be discriminating about styles and fashions while remaining insenstive
to beauty.

Note -- if what you want to express is 'beyond reasonable debate; not
merely an opinion' you do not need to get out the word 'objective' to
describe that quality. Having found something beautiful, it is most
frustrating when you show it to other people and they do not see it.
But you do not bring them any closer by listing those qualities that
you find attractive, because, in general, it is not that they have
overlooked those qualities -- it is that the thing as a whole does not
work for them. You can agree on all the objective qualities there --
it is the subjective 'experience of beauty' which you are getting and
they are not.

Laura Creighton
James J. Besemer
2002-05-17 17:07:33 UTC
Permalink
...
| Of course, there are some matters that are purely subjective. I think the
| difference is when humans begin to pass judgement on things, rather than
| merely measure them.
What does "subjective" mean? Applicable only to the individual self
and without relevance to anyone else?
1. existing in a person's mind and not produced by things outside it, not
objective.
2. depending on personal taste or views, etc.
If so, then I think I'm hearing
that a lot of what we call subjective, isn't. Presumably because we
aren't all so different after all, and though we don't fully understand
the basis for our reactions to things, that basis is still shared by
any being like us.
I agree that many things often regarded subjective are not subjective at all.

E.g., beauty. People say beauty is in the mind of the beholder but I would
counter argue that humans are programmed to regard certain features as beautiful
and others as not. Clearly, defects tend to be not beautiful. To some degree,
the complexity of the 3D surfaces that make up a face or a body is inversely
related to beauty. Wrinkles are not particularly beautiful while smooth skin
with gentle features is. Humans are programmed to be attracted to their
children, and this translates to some extent to adult 'beauty' in that
attractive people tend to be "cute". I.e., they have facial features that are
understated and somewhat child like and less adult and certainly show no signs
of aging. And of course, human males anyway are genetically programmed to
respond to certain female body features. One could argue it's not subjective at
all. I read somewhere that there's been a fair amount of study on this and with
computer models of faces there is surprising human consensus about what is
beautiful and regarding relative degrees of attractiveness. (Frankly, I suspect
that beauty is 'subjective' is as polite lie we tell ourselves because the
majority of people are not fortunate enough to mate with beautiful partners.
And anyway, it's certainly not PC to talk in objective terms about people who
are not beautiful.)

Similarly some things that are considered objective often are not objective at
all. E.g., with politics, I think most people pick a side, and then reinforce
that choice by selectively interpreting most of the information they get from
the world of politics. Humans are intrinsically tribal in nature and quickly
form we vs. they groups. Democratic Politics feed that instinct by exaggerating
the differences, the importance of the outcomes and by demonizing the other
side.
In this analysis, we don't just happen to think Python code looks
better because of some inexplicable individual quirk. That seems
reasonable to me.
This is harder because judging the 'beauty' of code is much harder to extract
from your training and background, and what you're used to. Unlike human beauty
you don't have any genetic predisposition one way or the other.

IIRC, this thread started out with the notion that Python was somehow
objectively more beautiful than Perl. Frankly I very much share that BELIEF
(subjective judgment) but I think it's an uphill battle to argue the case from a
purely objective basis. E.g., to me personally it seems you can make a case on
the dollar signs alone. I jokingly tell people they'll be 20% more productive
in Python simply on the basis of dollar-signs-not-typed. ;0) However, I know
people who are immersed in Perl and love it and they think the dollar signs are
great. I was amazed to hear this but they pointed out that, among other things,
they work even WITHIN quoted strings (just like in the shell):

E.g.,

print "a = $a, b = $b, c = $c\n";

is arguably more elegant and less tedious than

print "a = ", a, ", b = ", b, ", c = ", c

So, if you're used to "scripting" languages, the dollar sign prefix looks
natural rather than ugly.

To my Perl enthusiasts and many others coming from a C background, the necessity
to type

foo += 1

instead of

foo++

is patently absurd. Similarly the omission of the several other extremely
common and useful C idioms that are glorified in Perl is viewed as a glaring
defect in Python. All the rationale why they're not needed and how there are
work arounds sound (to these listeners) like so much crap. I agree it's a minor
issue but it's hard to build an objective case that Perl didn't make the better
choice in this regard (being one of the few places where Perl did NOT try to be
'inventive'). Note how often these topics come up and the answer is that "you
have no choice, eventually you'll get used to it, once you're properly
Pythonized it won't seem so bad..." Sounds like the epitome of SUBJECTIVE to
me.

In the area of good vs. ugly code, I think there actually are only a few things
that most humans agree about and thus could be considered objective criteria.
Probably the least controversial item is indenting code to reflect control
structure. This is so ingrained in most languages and in most programmers for
so long that virtually nobody would argue against it. In fact, I submit that
this purely stylistic expression being nearly universal in the first place is
what made Python's innovation of relying upon it possible. (Incidentally, this
feature did NOT originate with Python or with ABC. The concept was discussed in
ACM's SIGPLAN Notices ca. 1985 and was used in several experimental languages
before Guido thought of it or decided to use it).

Beyond that, the general notion of clarity ranks very high, thought that is hard
to pin down in objective terms. In general, discussing 'clarity' means that (a)
you're reading code not necessarily writing it, (b) you're trying to understand
it, and (c) you're making a JUDGMENT about how easy it was to understand.
Sometimes clarity means good comments. Sometimes clarity relies on "proper"
choice of variable and function names. Sometimes it relies on the fact that the
algorithm itself is simple and elegant (somewhat independent of the
implementation in a language). I think clarity is vitally important but I also
think it's highly subjective. Thus for many people you get the "I don't know
what it is but I know it when I see it" (and then, usually when THEY write it.
;o)

Overall, I think code beauty is almost entirely subjective, i.e., strictly in
the mind of the beholder. Beyond proper indenting, most of the choices people
have in writing code are actually points of contention. It doesn't apply to
Python but in C a lot of people have devoted a lot of energy arguing (and
changing) the locations of curly braces. In Python, there is no clear group
consensus about tabs vs. spaces (Ms. Creighton's amusing PEP notwithstanding).
Of course, people can band together and agree to follow an arbitrary style. And
with time that particular style will look 'beautiful' and all others will be
perceived as 'ugly' or at least less beautiful. But most of it is subjective
judgment, not objective measurement. You can argue that it's 'good' in the
sense that it's settled and an arbitrary settlement is better than continued
debate. But you can't argue that it's 'good' in some intrinsic sense. Rather,
you can but you've left the domain of objective debate.
But then, what about list comprehensions?
Dunno. They're quite new to me personally so I find them harder to understand
than map() and filter() or for loops. However, they happen to resemble a fairly
common mathematical notation, so to some people they might seem very natural and
the epitome of clarity. And I acknowledge that my preference for map() and
filter() is special in that if you don't already have that idiom in your
background then they're alien as all hell. Since comprehensions are non-obvious
to me, since they're about the slowest possible way to form a list, and since
they're not backwards compatible with more commonly available Pythons, I'm not
sure I'll use them all that much in the foreseeable future. Bottom line: the
choice to use them is entirely subjective. ;o)

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
Patrick
2002-05-18 03:13:30 UTC
Permalink
"Gon?alo Rodrigues" <op73418 at mail.telepac.pt> wrote in message
This type of reasoning is common in many schools of literary criticism.
e.g. The supposed aesthetic supremacy of a given author, say
Shakespeare, is more a product of historical conditions than anything
else.
Please listen. You have not understood me. You have chosen to set me up as a
platform on which to defend Shakespeare against some imagined evangelist of
popular culture who believes that Kylie Minogue is in every way the artistic
equal of Shakespeare, but is only consigned to the lowly status of "pop
artist" by an "aristocratic", "elitist" intellectual establishment. But, get
off the high horse for a minute Goncalo. Whoever you're talking to, it is
not me.

Historical conditions *do* contribute to the perceived aesthetic value of
works of art. Van Gogh died a pauper, his works appreciated by virtually
nobody. The impressionists banded together as a "movement" only because
their works were scorned by the establishment. And (some of) their works
were, and remain, *beautiful*.

Historical conditions, particularly the tastes of the "elite", play an
enormous role in the popular appreciation of "quality". Before you shoot me
down as another crass socialist revolutionary (again!), please consider that
I'm using the word "elite" in a positive sense. Because anything that is of
exceptional merit is itself "elite" (is rare, rarefied, and usually somewhat
strange), and relies on an "elite" to pass it down to future generations,
and to teach future generations _how_ to appreciate it.

I suspect there is a philosophical issue that will prevent us from
understanding each other. I'll try to clear it up from my perspective.

If historical conditions (and not just historical conditions but social
conditions, demographics, geography, etc) have _any_ effect on the perceived
aesthetic value of a work of art, it implies that the "quality" of this work
of art is not entirely intrinsic. But now I'm gonna shout this because you
don't seem to want to grant me the subtlely of mind to understand this: THIS
DOES NOT IMPLY THAT THERE IS NO *INTRINSIC* VALUE IN IT! The intrinsic
quality, whatever it is, is what makes it more likely to be universally
appreciated (like Shakespeare) by those who have not necessarily been raised
in the culture / fashion / political social climate from which it emerged.
Or perhaps there really *is* some kind of Platonic essence of "good". I
don't know. (The fact that people from all times and places have actively
ranked and valued various things - and not just for their trade value - does
tend to suggest this).
In other words, any supposed aesthetic supremacy is more of a
diktat than anything else, and the literary critics that disagree have
their visions distorted.
Wasn't it enough to use the loaded "diktat"? Did you really have to assign
it "more" value than "anything else"?

FWIW, I know that this is a common view. But again, it is not mine.
I disagree profoundly with this. But, and even
more importantly, and looking at the Shakespeare case, the fact that he
is read, studied and represented everywhere, that sucessive generations
have hailed him as a genius, that the best authors since Shakespeare
inspire themselves, directly or indirectly, in him, is for me proof
enough of Shakespeare's supremacy.
Of course if you tell me that this is all complete bull, and that the
real story lies in some of elitistic/aristocratic conspiracy, then I
will not even bother to refute you.
By all means "refute" me if you feel it necessary. But please make sure
you're refuting *me*, not an imaginary opponent whose views are not mine. I
don't have the time or inclination to disavow that imaginary person's views
a second time.
Gonçalo Rodrigues
2002-05-18 13:59:57 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 18 May 2002 13:13:30 +1000, "Patrick" <postmisc at yahoo.com.au>
Post by Patrick
"Gon?alo Rodrigues" <op73418 at mail.telepac.pt> wrote in message
This type of reasoning is common in many schools of literary criticism.
e.g. The supposed aesthetic supremacy of a given author, say
Shakespeare, is more a product of historical conditions than anything
else.
Please listen. You have not understood me. You have chosen to set me up as a
platform on which to defend Shakespeare against some imagined evangelist of
popular culture who believes that Kylie Minogue is in every way the artistic
equal of Shakespeare, but is only consigned to the lowly status of "pop
artist" by an "aristocratic", "elitist" intellectual establishment. But, get
off the high horse for a minute Goncalo. Whoever you're talking to, it is
not me.
I did understood you, I just may have not expressed myself correctly. My
protest was against an unguarded use of arguments like, and I quote from
Post by Patrick
It's possible that this consensus emerges as a result of training,
rather than as a result of any quality inherent in the wine.
And then I raised an example of the very bad effects that this leads to,
e.g. in literary criticism, where aesthetics is replaced by ideology. In
particular I did not chose you as a rampart for any supposed crusade to
defend Shakespeare. He was just an example and, anyway, he hardly needs
my defense.
Post by Patrick
Historical conditions *do* contribute to the perceived aesthetic value of
works of art. Van Gogh died a pauper, his works appreciated by virtually
nobody. The impressionists banded together as a "movement" only because
their works were scorned by the establishment. And (some of) their works
were, and remain, *beautiful*.
I use the term "Historical conditions" in a slightly different sense.
Post by Patrick
Historical conditions, particularly the tastes of the "elite", play an
enormous role in the popular appreciation of "quality". Before you shoot me
down as another crass socialist revolutionary (again!), please consider that
I'm using the word "elite" in a positive sense. Because anything that is of
exceptional merit is itself "elite" (is rare, rarefied, and usually somewhat
strange), and relies on an "elite" to pass it down to future generations,
and to teach future generations _how_ to appreciate it.
First, I will not shoot you down. Only revolutionaries shoot each other
down <wink>.

Second, the difference between "perceived aestethic value" and
"aesthetic value" de facto. My experience in literature as well as in
life tells me that "aesthetic value" is an effective reality and not
just a diktat (I confess I love this word) from a self-appointed
enlightened elite. Where historical conditions enter in the "perceived
aesthetic value" is what I would simply call "fashion".

Third, to repeat myself and to keep the record straight, I also
contended that there is no objective proof of this "aesthetic reality",
If by objective proof we mean, as I do, proofs as in Physics.
Post by Patrick
I suspect there is a philosophical issue that will prevent us from
understanding each other. I'll try to clear it up from my perspective.
If historical conditions (and not just historical conditions but social
conditions, demographics, geography, etc) have _any_ effect on the perceived
aesthetic value of a work of art, it implies that the "quality" of this work
of art is not entirely intrinsic. But now I'm gonna shout this because you
don't seem to want to grant me the subtlely of mind to understand this: THIS
DOES NOT IMPLY THAT THERE IS NO *INTRINSIC* VALUE IN IT! The intrinsic
quality, whatever it is, is what makes it more likely to be universally
appreciated (like Shakespeare) by those who have not necessarily been raised
in the culture / fashion / political social climate from which it emerged.
Or perhaps there really *is* some kind of Platonic essence of "good". I
don't know. (The fact that people from all times and places have actively
ranked and valued various things - and not just for their trade value - does
tend to suggest this).
In other words, any supposed aesthetic supremacy is more of a
diktat than anything else, and the literary critics that disagree have
their visions distorted.
Wasn't it enough to use the loaded "diktat"? Did you really have to assign
it "more" value than "anything else"?
FWIW, I know that this is a common view. But again, it is not mine.
Glad do hear <wink>
Post by Patrick
I disagree profoundly with this. But, and even
more importantly, and looking at the Shakespeare case, the fact that he
is read, studied and represented everywhere, that sucessive generations
have hailed him as a genius, that the best authors since Shakespeare
inspire themselves, directly or indirectly, in him, is for me proof
enough of Shakespeare's supremacy.
Of course if you tell me that this is all complete bull, and that the
real story lies in some of elitistic/aristocratic conspiracy, then I
will not even bother to refute you.
By all means "refute" me if you feel it necessary. But please make sure
you're refuting *me*, not an imaginary opponent whose views are not mine. I
don't have the time or inclination to disavow that imaginary person's views
a second time.
Best regards,
Gon?alo Rodrigues
Patrick
2002-05-19 12:16:43 UTC
Permalink
"Huaiyu Zhu" <hzhu at mars.localdomain> wrote in message
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
To my mind, it is a perfectly logical conclusion that if the final recipient
has some limitations (eg. the assumption that all things "REAL" must be
entirely or partly perceptible), then the delivery systems indeed cannot
help.
Care to outline that logic?
I'm relieved that you said "outline" instead of "defend" ;-)

Philosophy is not my forte, so please forgive the naivete of these remarks.
You are dealing with a novice here. (And to cap it off, it's Sunday night
and I've been drinking all afternoon). So here goes ...

I meant : if one of the "recipient's" limitations is a tendency to seek in
the wrong direction, as Christopher seemed to imply, then even highly
advanced "delivery systems" will be unable to help. For instance, we will
not find Pi through a powerful telescope, or even through the world's best
hearing aid.

I wonder though: is Pi entirely imaginary? Does its lack of substance
necessarily place it in a domain that is beyond any definition of "real"? I
have no idea what philosophers think about this, but could not Pi be
considered both real and imaginary? Although Pi is not a real _thing_, it is
a real _relationship_. And should "things" own the exclusive right to
"reality"?

Beyond Pi, what about the laws of physics themselves? Are scientific laws
"real"? What kind of instrument could possibly detect the law itself (not
merely manifestations of the law)?

If any of this makes any sense, ie. if scientific laws and relationships
(like Pi) are granted any form of "reality", then so might Platonic "Forms"
have a "reality" of sorts that is not, by nature, perceptible (or only seen
"through a glass darkly"). And if that were the case, to look for them "out
there" with the best scientific instruments would be something of a wild
goose chase. I suspect this is what Christopher meant, but I'm sorry if I've
got it wrong.

Regardless of whether there's any merit in the above (and believe me, it
will not hurt my feelings if you tear it to pieces ;-)), it also seems
possible to me that certain (unknown) errors are hardwired into human
perception, and that unless those errors are somehow recognised,
sophisticated instruments may only amplify them. If our ignorance of our
ignorance is fundamental enough, we may be building the same error into our
instruments. (Speculative possibility which I have no particular reason to
either believe, or to want to believe, but it seems far from inconceivable
to me).

Regards,
Patrick.
Huaiyu Zhu
2002-05-20 06:05:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Patrick
"Huaiyu Zhu" <hzhu at mars.localdomain> wrote in message
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
To my mind, it is a perfectly logical conclusion that if the final
recipient
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
has some limitations (eg. the assumption that all things "REAL" must be
entirely or partly perceptible), then the delivery systems indeed cannot
help.
Care to outline that logic?
I'm relieved that you said "outline" instead of "defend" ;-)
Philosophy is not my forte, so please forgive the naivete of these remarks.
You are dealing with a novice here. (And to cap it off, it's Sunday night
and I've been drinking all afternoon). So here goes ...
[snip]

Actually I do agree with the possibility that some limitations of recipient
cannot be helped by any delivery system. For example, it is not possible to
push more information through the senses than their maximal capacity.
But there exist other limitations of the senses that can be overcome by
proper transformtion of the information. Therefore it is *logically
consistent* either way. There is no logical conclusion either way. Each
particular instance of this question has to be answered based on its
particular characteristics.

That's my objection to Christopher's line of thinking. Just invoking a
limitation of senses to make conclusions about fundamental limitation of
knowledge does not make any sense. Your additional arguments at least
constitute some additional analysis of the nature of some specific kinds of
knowledge. It is at least possible, but not likely at this stage, that this
might lead to some conclusion about fundamental limits of human knowledge.

You might have observed that I'm deliberately avoiding discussion of the
specific kind of limitations both of you are alluding to: namely systematic
bias in our sensory system. That topic will inevitably veer into philosophy
that is hard to disentangle (and not suitable for this forum). I would just
say that even a lab rat living in an entirely manipulated environment still
gains knowledge about its environment, even though the environment is an
artificial one.

As others have pointed out, this is already way too OT here. So I'll just
stop, even though the discussion is very interesting.

Huaiyu
Ben Wolfson
2002-05-15 22:16:57 UTC
Permalink
So now I'm down again to just one type of music I reject out of hand: Rap.
Try Del tha Funkee Homosapien.
--
BTR
BEN WOLFSON HAS RUINED ROCK MUSIC FOR A GENERATION
-- Crgre Jvyyneq
Donn Cave
2002-05-20 02:29:10 UTC
Permalink
Quoth "Steve Holden" <sholden at holdenweb.com>:
...
| But we have no way to distinguish between physical properties and social
| interactions, since the only ways we can communicate involve agreement about
| the ground-rules. It is, for example, very difficult to engage in
| philosophical discussions with a determined solipsist, who sees all
| perceptions as generated by the operation of her own senses - that is,
| "objective reality" is produced by the operation of the human brain.
| Therefore you are, to a solipsist, simply a manifestation of their own
| thought processes, and have no objective (i.e. external) reality atr all.
...
| Our ignorance is absolute. We can only agree to agree, or to disagree. And
| no matter how much we agree, this does not affect the nature of "objective
| reality", which we can never perceive directly.

Oh, stuff. If you suppose that there's some objective reality, then
surely you got the idea from various compelling evidences of its existence.
This experience is the operation of your senses, for sure, but it's still
what you know as objective reality. You don't have any reason to believe
there's anything else more real than this, unless you want to be mystical.

Donn Cave, donn at drizzle.com
Donn Cave
2002-05-17 14:17:06 UTC
Permalink
Quoth "James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com>:
...
| Of course, there are some matters that are purely subjective. I think the
| difference is when humans begin to pass judgement on things, rather than
| merely measure them. E.g,, I can imagine two similar wines of equal
| overall quality. Some people will prefer one and others may prefer
| another. Make it easy and say the wines were a red and a white and some
| people's preferences will be even more pronounced. That's not to say one
| wine is better than the other, it's mere subjective Judgement -- a matter
| of taste. But there are objective qualities that separate the wines
| (e.g., acid, sugar and tannin levels) that form an objective basis for the
| subjective judgement. Measurement is (can be) objective but judgement by
| it's nature is subjective. Measurement implies an objective framework of
| reference while judgement generally implies extrapolation beyond commonly
| agreed upon criteria.

What does "subjective" mean? Applicable only to the individual self
and without relevance to anyone else? If so, then I think I'm hearing
that a lot of what we call subjective, isn't. Presumably because we
aren't all so different after all, and though we don't fully understand
the basis for our reactions to things, that basis is still shared by
any being like us.

In this analysis, we don't just happen to think Python code looks
better because of some inexplicable individual quirk. That seems
reasonable to me. But then, what about list comprehensions?

Donn Cave, donn at drizzle.com
Brian Quinlan
2002-05-20 05:28:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Roberts
I never cease to amazed by the number of of unsophisticated users I
encounter who are experiencing problems caused by faulty software
testing and are convinced that it is all their fault. Amazed, and
ashamed.
You should be honored that people have such a high regard for our
profession :-)

Cheers,
Brian
Gonçalo Rodrigues
2002-05-17 17:47:42 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 18 May 2002 00:27:30 +1000, "Patrick" <postmisc at yahoo.com.au>
"James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com> wrote in message
[...]
Laura's choice of a particularly subjective example actually underscores
the point. Although there is a lot of inescapable subjectivity regarding
ranking wines, a general consensus nevertheless emerged regarding a great
number of "measurements".
It's possible that this consensus emerges as a result of training, rather
than as a result of any quality inherent in the wine. Or, on second
thoughts, both: An aspiring wine taster learns to recognise and appreciate
the very qualities that an expert has determined to be "good". To some
extent, the choice of these qualities is arbitrary, but once they've been
adequately described and considered authoritative, they can be recognised
and, to some extent, measured. Of course that says very little about whether
the tasters are recognising "quality", rather than "a quality". The latter
seems far more likely to me (which in no way undermines the value of refined
taste).
This type of reasoning is common in many schools of literary criticism.
e.g. The supposed aesthetic supremacy of a given author, say
Shakespeare, is more a product of historical conditions than anything
else. In other words, any supposed aesthetic supremacy is more of a
diktat than anything else, and the literary critics that disagree have
their visions distorted. I disagree profoundly with this. But, and even
more importantly, and looking at the Shakespeare case, the fact that he
is read, studied and represented everywhere, that sucessive generations
have hailed him as a genius, that the best authors since Shakespeare
inspire themselves, directly or indirectly, in him, is for me proof
enough of Shakespeare's supremacy.

Of course if you tell me that this is all complete bull, and that the
real story lies in some of elitistic/aristocratic conspiracy, then I
will not even bother to refute you. These type of statements, as also
mine above, are "unscientific", in the sense that they are unverifiable
by objective (scientific) means - insert pithy quote of K. Popper here.
But as I said above, I bet that the trueth lies - well, you know where.

Best regards,
Gon?alo Rodrigues
Christopher Encapera
2002-05-15 13:54:07 UTC
Permalink
This is exactly right, and it is an important point. As long as
programs
continue to be essentially "hand-crafted", we will never be able to
build
reliable large systems. Only when programming ceases to be art and
moves
into the realm of engineering -- like building a bridge or a building --
will we get the reliability that we really need in order to create the
large systems that the twenty-first century demands.
You appear to have mistaken Art for Handicrafts. All things which are
designed are Arts. Being an art (or being a craft for that matter) has
nothing to do with whether something is unreliable. There is a great
deal of prejudice between 'Artists who hate Technology' and 'Technologists
who hate Art', but at the top level of the profession -- you do both.
Laura Creighton
Well said. I think one should keep in mind though the difference between
art and art. If you mean the art that sits in front of many of our
institutions ("modern" art) and the like, it deserves our universal
condemnation, and indeed our deep hatred ;) If you however mean art, as in
the art of cooking, or the martial arts, then of course we should not shy
away from calling programming (or engineering) an art. In my opinion, the
art is found not only at the top level, but at the very beginning. If
python has anything to do with art, however, then I am deeply offended, and
will unsubscribe to this list immediately and never program again...:)
--
http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/python-list
James J. Besemer
2002-05-17 20:12:05 UTC
Permalink
All instruments, and all
measurement, depend on one of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch,
smell). [...] Thus, no matter how
accurately/extensively/etc. you sense the shadow, you never get closer to
the REAL itself
One problem with the Plato example is that it implies that our perception is so
much terribly worse than it actually is. You could argue all we really see is
shadows because in fact all we really DO perceive are photons that are reflected
or emitted from objects in our field of view -- not the objects themselves. Or
else we perceive electrochemical impulses from our finger tips, not the actual
atoms from the object itself. However, this is a lot different and less
limiting than the indirect shadows Plato describes in his ANALOGY. Our
perception of the real world is actually pretty high fidelity on a lot of
matters.

Even though still limited with my same old physical senses, I can definitely
measure an object better with a ruler than by just looking at it, and better
still with a micrometer than with a ruler, and (where applicable) even better
with an optical interferometer. Telescopes, microscopes and televisions allow
me to observe phenomena that otherwise would be invisible to me.

While it is true, there may exist planes of reality which lie beyond our
perception (e.g., sub atomic physics, the origin of life, global weather),
that's not to say that tools don't bring us closer to reality nor that that the
underlying objective reality does not exist. The fact that some 'objects' are
so impossibly complex that we are unable to understand them and perhaps never
will does not deny the actual reality.

I suppose you could argue that all we perceive is an illusion and that we can
trust nothing of our senses. This is like when I was a little kid, I suppose
like most, I often feared that some monster would attack me in my bed. I
finally put those fears to rest once and for all by deciding that if by some
perverse twist of fate it turned out that I did in fact live in a universe where
monsters ate little boys in their bed then I'd have no choice but to accept it.
Meanwhile, since there's no evidence that supernatural monsters exist I'll
proceed fearlessly as if they do not.

I'll listen to arguments but to date I've never heard a compelling one that
reality is an illusion.
[...] domain of the 'spiritual'.
As an affirmed Atheist I will strive to tread carefully here so as not to give
offense.
Hope, Love, the human soul, etc, are by
their nature not amenable to measurement by the senses,
I disagree.

To pick one: many aspects of Love can be described in terms mating behavior, to
which humans are genetically, instinctually disposed. This involves many
glandular and hormonal reactions that make the situation unique and singularly
exciting and pleasurable. Within the scope of a mating relationship there are
many powerful behavioral reinforcements that encourage 'fidelity' and a long
term relationship. And those individuals who don't experience many or any other
sexual partners will associate all the sexual pleasure with their one 'lover'.
Like most mammals, humans also like to cuddle and prefer to not sleep alone if
we have a choice. [We have the cutest little pet rats and they always sleep
closely snuggled together, even though they're sisters. They exhibit a
surprising number of other human like behavior.] Humans are genetically
disposed to love their children and in normal circumstances they're so sweet
and cute when they're little it's virtually impossible not to 'love' them.
Little copies of yourself and your one true 'love'. What's NOT to 'love'?
Social mores further support and encourage mating for life. E.g., the
institution of marriage presents a hysteresis so that it is not entered into or
abandoned as lightly as it might otherwise. The practical negative consequences
of incest, promiscuity and certain perverse acts created a culture of 'taboo'
about said practices (for most of our history, if not anymore). It's easy to
believe that prehistoric tribes who adopted those taboos had a survival
advantage over tribes who indulged in the practices.

Although I can talk about it, and I argue that it's entirely deterministic and
mechanical at bottom, the totality of the human experience of 'love' is
mysterious and incomprehensible to humans themselves. I think most human
behavior is fundamentally incomprehensible (at least to intellects as limited as
ours are). There's this tiny bacterium somewhere where I hear humans have
mapped and understand the relationship and function of each and every nucleotide
of it's DNA. That's the one example (for argument's sake) of a life form that
humans completely understand. State of the art of human's understanding of
another life forms behavior. I figure it would take an intelligence similarly
larger than our own to completely understand humans. There might be some aliens
with the right equipment somewhere in the universe, I dunno. But the fact that
it's incomprehensible in its totality to us does not deny the underlying
reality.

Meanwhile, I freely and blithely Love my wife and children and others close to
me. When I try to understand Love I get the 'scientific' and 'objective' answer
above. But it doesn't detract at all from the experience for me to 'know' that
much of my behavior is pre-programmed or determined by external influences.
Experiencing Love is completely unrelated to any intellectual attempt at
understanding.

Say La Vee.

Similarly I could argue your other examples.
and thus will never
be understandable, provable, etc. to the materialist mind.
Yes. I suppose by definition, if you can't prove it to me then my materialist
mind will reject. [If you do have any 'proof', I'd very much like to hear it.]

The way I look at it, the universe is basically incomprehensible. So is the
world, even simply the town we live in is more than any person can fully
comprehend in every detail. The intricacies of our bodies and vast portions of
our own behavior are beyond the realm of our objective understanding. Fact of
the mater, most of what there is to know is beyond our comprehension. But
everywhere we look, the reality is there, reinforcing the notion that there's
always more and more we don't know about the universe. And then--there's the
biggest question of all, the question of our ROLE in the universe. Why are we
here?

As I said, all of this is basically unknowable, and I simply shrug it off as
such. I'm just a tiny, momentary speck in the universe, why should I PRESUME to
have all the answers or even know somebody who does? For eons the earth was too
hot to sustain life and soon it'll be too cold. For that brief moment in
between when life briefly fizzes on the surface -- here I am in the middle of
it. Why? Is no why. Like in Mad Max: "Plan??!! Ain't got no plan!!" I can
live with that.

Other people react by not being able to stand the unknown and they wrap all this
all up nice and neat into a religion -- for all that is unknowable they insert a
magical, spiritual answer that makes everything, in a way, once again
'knowable'. We don't have all the answers but God surely knows, or it's all
part of God's plan, so we don't have to worry about it. God is the big
independent variable that lets everything else balance out.

If I sound disrespectful I don't mean to. Some people need their faith, I know
they're sincere and I respect that. For all I know they're right and I'm going
to burn in hell for all eternity along with Bill Gates. But as an intelligent
person, one who was raised to be religious, one who's heard and weighted all the
evidence and all the arguments, I simply don't find the slightest excuse to
believe in any kind of a spiritual world.
Fortunately, the
search for truth, which is at the bottom of the scientific method, is not
restricted to materialist notions of reality. Unfortunately, today the
domain of the "Scientific community" and "Dogmatic philosophical
materialist" overlap, to a very high degree (98, 99%?). This leads to
unfortunate consequences for the search of truth, namely it obstructs/delays
it.
Clearly, I'm one of the dogmatic scientific philosophical materialists. ;o)

We rather believe superstition and belief in the supernatural is what
obstructs/delays the discovery of Truth.
Let me cite an example from my own experience: As an undergraduate
psych major, I noticed that standard psychological theory (which is
materialist to the core) could not explain why Alcoholics Anonymous happens
to be the most effective treatment for alcoholism. Every attempt to
understand/study/explain it by psychologists either ring hollow, or they
themselves admitted were weak. The answer is obvious to a non-dogmatic
materialist - AA admits and works with a non material side of man - namely
the spiritual. One day in class I brought this point up and the embarrassed
professor said something to the effect of "well, that is not what we do
here".
Bad psych. professor. First off, in all fairness, it's hard for him to know how
to begin to explain off hand how AA works without his having studied it
carefully. Probably he knows nothing about AA and was dumbfounded by your
question.

Actually, I think modern psychology and science generally can explain AA's
success quite nicely without resorting to the spiritual. I think key is that AA
simply provides a safe haven for people to come an seek help without being
judged. They actively recruit and welcome members at a time when alcoholics are
feeling rejection from their friends and loved ones. AA is the original
'support' group. "I've been where you're hanging and I think I can see how
you're pinned." Hearing stories about others suffering similar consequences (or
worse) is plain old good therapy to avoid continued decay or future relapses.
Seeing examples of successful outcomes and model good behavior is bound to shape
behavior for the better. Sharing info and educating people about their disease
in a non confrontational manner can only help. Individuals are encouraged to
tell their story and through participation are given a sense that they're
actually helping other newcomers. This reinforces good behavior and also serves
as it's own reward (feels good). I was never a psych major but I see quite a
few things about the overall nature of AA that would reinforce behavior
improvement.

I know that a central tenant of AA is accepting some higher power's authority
over one's self. However, the importance and efficacy of this is suspect. Over
the decades AA's own message has been diluted somewhat from where that higher
power originally was the traditional "American" western (judeo-) christian
Jalwah to where now it's some arbitrary and rather non-specific higher power
('say, your community'). Fact of the matter, nowadays there are some
alternative substance abuse programs that are equally effective to AA without
bringing spirituality into the matter. They tend emphasize a similar but
substantially different message: that one accepts responsibility for one's own
behavior. Curiously, this is basically an atheist, existentialist philosophy,
though it has practical implications similar to the spiritual message.

So, the fact that AA is effective and the fact that AA happens to include a
spiritual message does NOT establish that the spiritual message is a necessary
part of the cure. Further, there is evidence to suggest that it is irrelevant.

One of the most important lessons I took away from my college psych classes was
the notion of 'superstitious behavior'. It turns out that creatures sometimes
adopt certain behavior out of a false sense that it's relevant to some reward.
The classical experiment is pigeons are fed at intervals that are determined by
a timer, regardless of any behavior on their part. Turns out that this
situation can accidentally reinforce some particular pigeon behavior, as the
pigeons evidently wrongly associate the behavior with the reward. E.g., the
pigeon would 'learn' to hop side to side for food even though the behavior had
nothing to do with getting fed.
(http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/) This made a big impression on
me and ever since I have come to view a significant fraction of human behavior
in these terms.

Certainly, superstitious behavior offers a possible explanation of religious
beliefs in humans, one I'd consider certainly plausible. Personally, I
subscribe to the "Life of Brian" explanation of the origin of religion. In
Biblical times (and earlier), tribes in the middle east ('cradle of
civilization') and all over the world were a bubbling ferment of all different
sorts of mystical ideas and faiths. Look at all the peagan gods and practices
of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc. Some tribes adopted religious beliefs
that reinforced 'good' practical, behavior such as love thy neighbor, don't
steal from him and don't try to boink his wife. At the same time the religion
included mystical and spiritual tenets that had nothing to do with anything.
Nevertheless, the religion altogether included practices that gave the
'faithful' tribes a survival advantage over competing tribes that adopted
'pagan' beliefs. As time went by, these successful tribes spread their
practices to others and certain religions became dominant in different parts of
the world. People to this day continue to engage in purely superstitious
religious behavior as a side effect of the survival value of those early moral
systems.

I take as evidence of this theory the fact that many of the same, aforementioned
practical moral tenants are shared by most religions world wide, while the
superstitious aspects vary radically. E.g., Judeo-Christian's single, fairly
harsh god, heaven and hell vs. Buddhist's jolly primary deity and reincarnation
(to greater or lesser future lives), vs. Hindu's many gods and paths to
'enlightenment,' vs. Shinto's ancestor worship and afterlife-through-progeny.
He was right, the spiritual can never (by definition) be part of a
materialist understanding.
Then the question is does the spiritual ever really add anything to our
understanding of REALITY?

I don't deny that religion makes many people happy and it fills an important
role in billions of peoples' lives. But does it really add to our understanding
in an objective and widely agreed upon way?
The domain of
Truth is larger than the domain of 'the material', even in such a small part
of the universe as a single human person...
Darn. I KNOW I disagree with you here but it's hard to disagree with your
words. So instead I'll explain how I AGREE with the words and thus demonstrate
how I disagree with what you mean. ;o)

I agree the domain of truth is larger than the material, as Truth necessarily
includes impossible abstractions such as Euclidean Geometry and popular works of
science fiction (not that the fiction is truth but that as literary works they
manifest themselves primarily as are intellectual rather than physical items in
our reality).

I furthermore agree that Truth is more than we can understand, simply because it
is so friggin' big.

Finally, I agree there are strict limits to Truth. Kurt Godel proved this in
the 30's: any axiomatic system will include true theorems which cannot be proven
from the axioms. And if you add axioms to include the theorems, there will
still be other theorems which are impossible to prove true.
(: repeat after me, "I am not
merely a brain, I am not merely a brain" ;)
Repeat after me: "Blessed are the Cheese Makers." ;o)

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
Cliff Wells
2002-05-15 16:56:19 UTC
Permalink
On Wed, 15 May 2002 16:27:50 +0100
I, for example, can't stand country and western music. Hate the stuff. But I
would not be so arrogant as to suggest that those who *do* like country and
western are wrong, and that it's a bad thing. It's just not my cup of tea.
What about country music accompanied by interpretive dance? Could that be
considered universally bad?
--
Cliff Wells, Software Engineer
Logiplex Corporation (www.logiplex.net)
(503) 978-6726 x308 (800) 735-0555 x308
James J. Besemer
2002-05-15 20:59:07 UTC
Permalink
I, for example, can't stand country and western music. Hate the stuff. But I
would not be so arrogant as to suggest that those who *do* like country and
western are wrong, and that it's a bad thing. It's just not my cup of tea.
A very mature attitude. I used to share this prejudice, except I went overboard
and furthermore believed people who did like C+W were wrong.

Then one day not too long ago I realized that, unlike a lot of people I know, I
genuinely do like all sorts of different kinds of music, from rock and roll to
14th century chamber music; from early baroque to Wagner; folk music of the US
and the Brittish is. to [some] Show Tunes; Linda Ronstat whether she's singing
with the Stone Ponies or with Nelson Riddle. In fact, it actually was rather
odd that C+W was the only kind of music I ostensibly didn't like (until Rap grew
the list to two)..

For a long time I knew on an intellectual level that the highly venerated Rock
and Roll, so popular with most of my friends, was the mere synthesis of Country
and Western with The Blues. I liked Rock and I loved the Blues -- what (other
than an indefensible prejudice) was keeping me from liking Country and Western?

So about a year and a half ago I decided to give the genera a chance. A guy who
sat nearby at a client's site was into C+W and I asked him to recommend and loan
me some music. At first he thought I was mocking him but I convinced him I was
sincere. He recommended a number of titles and I picked a few others of my
own. Some of the stuff I absolutely still do not like but a lot of it I had to
admit was OK and some of it was absolutely fabulous. It's especially curious to
see the various Elvis and Beatles songs that are pretty direct rip offs from
Hank Williams.

So now I'm down again to just one type of music I reject out of hand: Rap.

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
Christopher Encapera
2002-05-15 17:17:19 UTC
Permalink
People really should learn the difference between things which are not to
their personal taste, and thing which are bad.
I, for example, can't stand country and western music. Hate the stuff. But
I
would not be so arrogant as to suggest that those who *do* like country and
western are wrong, and that it's a bad thing. It's just not my cup of tea.
If you don't appreciate modern art, well, fair enough. But 'universal
condemnation and hatred'? Did your wife leave you for a conceptual artist,
or something?
Cheers,
Simon Brunning
TriSystems Ltd.
sbrunning at trisystems.co.uk
lol! If she has, she has not let me in on the betrayal! (that would be so
'artsy fartsy' of her:) On a more serious note, I do subscribe to that old
fashioned notion of the hierarchy of value, which recognizes that some
things, some philosophies, even some cultures & art are better than others.
While Willie Nelson's 'blue eyes cryin in the rain' might not be Mozart, it
is vastly superior (in every respect) to say, the rapper of the week (or
that "modern art" that sits in front of county hall). And that ain't no
personal opinion - that is objective truth - the very foundation of the
universe, the ground of all being and meaning, agrees with this evaluation
(i.e. it is objective truth!). Indeed what is arrogant is that philosophy
so popular these days that everything is relative - that there can be no
(other than subjective) evaluation of right and wrong, good and bad, art
and, well, bad art - it is an arrogant relativism gone wild :) But none of
this has much to do with that honorable, high art of programming python, and
will be my last laugh - I mean post - on the matter ;)



Christopher Encapera
Lantech.Com
chrise at lantech.com
502-267-4200
Mike Coleman
2002-05-13 01:33:48 UTC
Permalink
An interesting observation is this: the difference between the beginner's
Python code and the expert's Python code is less than the difference between
the beginner's Perl code and the expert's Perl code. This is actually the
origin of "Python is more readable", which it is. It's difficult to write
unintelligible code in Python (though I'm sure it's possible -- there are
people with lots of talent out there ;-)), whereas, it's relatively easy in
Perl.
I agree, but I'm more inclined to render this as

It's difficult to write intelligible code in Perl (though I'm sure it's
possible -- there are (masochistic) people with lots of talent out there
;-)), whereas, it's relatively easy in Python.

Mike
Matthew Diephouse
2002-05-14 19:18:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Coleman
I agree, but I'm more inclined to render this as
It's difficult to write intelligible code in Perl (though I'm sure it's
possible -- there are (masochistic) people with lots of talent out there
;-)), whereas, it's relatively easy in Python.
Mike
OBC2BIP - Only Bad Coders Code Badly In Perl

matt
Mike Coleman
2002-05-12 19:06:07 UTC
Permalink
BTW, the idea of Perl Golf is interesting, but unapplied to Python. It
is possible to write short ugly programs in Python, but I would not to make
them the goal of a contest.
I'd better see a contest for "Python elegance", but unfortunately
"elegance" is hard (though not impossible) to measure.
That was my thought exactly. It's kind of a cool idea, but measuring the
wrong thing. The shortest programs may have hack value, but they're
absolutely awful in terms of readability, maintainability, etc. This may be
orthogonal or even somewhat in line with the Perl ethos, but I see it as
fairly antithetical to that of Python.

If one wanted to measure brief programs in Python, they should be measured in
(say) tokens rather than bytes, to at least allow for this difference.

As you say, if you want to measure elegance, you'd probably need to judge it
or vote on it.

Mike
Oleg Broytmann
2002-05-12 19:14:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Coleman
I'd better see a contest for "Python elegance", but unfortunately
"elegance" is hard (though not impossible) to measure.
As you say, if you want to measure elegance, you'd probably need to judge it
or vote on it.
Yes, this is the only way.

Oleg.
--
Oleg Broytmann http://phd.pp.ru/ phd at phd.pp.ru
Programmers don't die, they just GOSUB without RETURN.
Paul Boddie
2002-05-21 14:25:17 UTC
Permalink
Another artist - Yoki Ono - has a piece that consists
of a video tape of people cutting her clothes off of her; so called
"performance art". If the people doing the cutting had worn jack boots and
swastikas, we would have called it inhumane and criminal yet somehow the
critics call it art.
This reminds me of a documentary about Andy Warhol that was shown on
Swedish television the other week. With all the performance art,
bizarre clothing, complex relationships, experimentation, and so on,
one almost expected Austin Powers to make an appearance. ;-)
Art is what you like, not what other people tell you you should like.
"I may not know art, but I know what I like!" :-)

Seriously, and more related to the forum, I feel that the cited
artistic nature of code is typically used as a cover for an activity
which would not withstand objective analysis. What is it that makes
code good? This is surely where we drift away from "art" (whatever it
is) and towards "design" and "engineering", along with the various
objective criteria which assess the success of such activities.

"Here's some code which does some neat trick - you can barely read it!
It's art!" says the experienced Perl hacker.

Our response to this (if we really care, of course) should be to
consider the purposes of the software: the code must perform some
task, other people may need to maintain such code, the code may be an
educational vehicle. Some of these purposes can be measured according
to objective criteria, and we might respond as follows:

"The code is obscure, thus making it a needless academic exercise to
learn from and maintain. However, this solution is marginally faster
and less resource intensive than more maintainable solutions."

In my opinion, art only comes into it if we discard many of the more
common objectives of writing software, and that was probably the
intention of the original Perl-oriented magazine/journal article.

Paul
David K. Trudgett
2002-05-19 23:34:37 UTC
Permalink
[1] Incidentally, the Chinese word for movie consists of two characters
"electric showdow".
Since Zhu Huaiyu didn't let us know, in Chinese Hanyu Pinyin, it is
written "dian ying" (pronounced: dyen ing), or "electric shadow" in
English.

BTW, there were some interesting points in that post! Couldn't spot
the relevance to Python, though! ;-)

Zai jian!

David Trudgett
James J. Besemer
2002-05-15 22:00:39 UTC
Permalink
But that's just the free market economist inside me speaking.
I've got to let him out every once in a while otherwise he
gets too riled up on the free (Python) software I develop. :)
Don't worry. Be Happy.

"It's OK to want to make money."

--BDFL, the right Hon. Guido V-R

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
David LeBlanc
2002-05-18 03:00:11 UTC
Permalink
Pfffffffffffft!!!

I have been reading this thread with no little amusement, but it's not
python by a long shot. NOW it's wandering off into the "spiritual" (read:
superstition). Yuch - enough is enough!

"Objective Truth" <-- FABLE. There is no such thing as an objective human.
Doubtful even in Vulcans. A "truth" is something that is important to
someone. Facts on the other hand are facts... a lot like dinosaur bones
(seen any fossilized angel feathers lately?).

"Spiritualism"/"god"/"higher self" <--- No empirical evidence for any such
thing exists _period_. There is a good reason you can't call God to testify
in court. "AA" can be explained as mass psychology and/or self-hypnosis
and/or something about the way humans work that we don't have an explanation
for yet.

David LeBlanc
Seattle, WA USA
James J. Besemer
2002-05-17 11:56:14 UTC
Permalink
The ability to rank something and whether it is objective or not are
independent concepts.
But for the ranking to be objective, it has to be
independent of the person doing the ranking.
I think the argument is that there EXISTS an objective interpretation
independently of whether we humans can perceive it.

Plato argued this, furthermore suggesting that humans perception in the
matter is rather inaccurate. He used the analogy that reality was like
actors on a stage and we humans were chained in a position where we were
only able to observe the shadows these actors made on the wall. The fact
that our perception may be faulty and may admit some degree of
subjectivity and other misperceptions does not contradict the notion that
an objective reality truly exists. Even so-called objective scientific
experiments often yield results that include some percentage of error or
otherwise are ambiguous.

Perhaps a clearer illustration: physical objects can be measured by humans
to varying degrees of accuracy depending on what instruments we use.
Without the instruments we can still estimate physical dimensions and we
can make fairly objective decisions about relative size. We can be misled
by optical illusions or other misdirection. Nevertheless, the objects
themelves still possess those physical characteristics, whether we measure
them or not.
Which says to me that the ranking process is *not*
completely objective. Not because the process involves
people using their senses, but because the result
depends on who is doing it.
Laura's choice of a particularly subjective example actually underscores
the point. Although there is a lot of inescapable subjectivity regarding
ranking wines, a general consensus nevertheless emerged regarding a great
number of "measurements".

Of course, there are some matters that are purely subjective. I think the
difference is when humans begin to pass judgement on things, rather than
merely measure them. E.g,, I can imagine two similar wines of equal
overall quality. Some people will prefer one and others may prefer
another. Make it easy and say the wines were a red and a white and some
people's preferences will be even more pronounced. That's not to say one
wine is better than the other, it's mere subjective Judgement -- a matter
of taste. But there are objective qualities that separate the wines
(e.g., acid, sugar and tannin levels) that form an objective basis for the
subjective judgement. Measurement is (can be) objective but judgement by
it's nature is subjective. Measurement implies an objective framework of
reference while judgement generally implies extrapolation beyond commonly
agreed upon criteria.

Of course, the debate of whether or not an objective reality actually
exists independently of human subjective perception and judgement has been
argued at length by smarter philosophers than me, long before I was born.
E.g., Physicsts get rather dogmatic about equating unmeasureable with
unknowable, leading to some curious paradoxes.

A lot of geeks tend to go overboard on the 'objective reality' side of
things. They presume that everything is knowable if only we can gather
enough data. Often they mistakenly include things that are purely
subjective, purely a matter of personal judgement rather than objective
reality. Many flames and religious wars otherwise would be averted.

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
Oleg Broytmann
2002-05-12 10:12:28 UTC
Permalink
Hello. Little amusing offtopic. ;)

There is a nice idead pointed to by /. - a file with a program(s) that
solves a Perl Golf job. The amusing part is that the file contains the
program in 4 different languges!
http://www.if.insa-lyon.fr/eleves/jquelin/quadri.html

BTW, the idea of Perl Golf is interesting, but unapplied to Python. It
is possible to write short ugly programs in Python, but I would not to make
them the goal of a contest.
I'd better see a contest for "Python elegance", but unfortunately
"elegance" is hard (though not impossible) to measure.

Oleg.
--
Oleg Broytmann http://phd.pp.ru/ phd at phd.pp.ru
Programmers don't die, they just GOSUB without RETURN.
James J. Besemer
2002-05-17 17:13:20 UTC
Permalink
"James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com> wrote in message
[...]
Laura's choice of a particularly subjective example actually underscores
the point. Although there is a lot of inescapable subjectivity regarding
ranking wines, a general consensus nevertheless emerged regarding a great
number of "measurements".
It's possible that this consensus emerges as a result of training, rather
than as a result of any quality inherent in the wine. Or, on second
thoughts, both: An aspiring wine taster learns to recognise and appreciate
the very qualities that an expert has determined to be "good". To some
extent, the choice of these qualities is arbitrary, but once they've been
adequately described and considered authoritative, they can be recognised
and, to some extent, measured. Of course that says very little about whether
the tasters are recognising "quality", rather than "a quality". The latter
seems far more likely to me (which in no way undermines the value of refined
taste).
I see your point but I think the judgement-as-a-result-of-training argument is
way more applicable to programming styles than to wine tasting.

With wine tasting, the cheaper wines tend to exagerate one or more specific
taste sensation over all others. They start to taste sour, bitter or too sweet
-- in a word, bad. To be sure, these may be qualities which happen to appeal to
some isolated individuals but I think most people who enjoy drinking wine would
without any training agree on best vs. worst wines and some gradations in
between.

Regards

--jb

--
James J. Besemer 503-280-0838 voice
http://cascade-sys.com 503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at cascade-sys.com
Laura Creighton
2002-05-17 06:54:57 UTC
Permalink
The ability to rank something and whether it is objective or not are
independent concepts.
But for the ranking to be objective, it has to be
independent of the person doing the ranking.
I could find the 3 best, and the 2 worst with no trouble, and there
was broad consensus in the room about this. There was disagreement
as to the precise ranking, however.
Which says to me that the ranking process is *not*
completely objective. Not because the process involves
people using their senses, but because the result
depends on who is doing it.
We're in agreement here. What I am objecting to is the notion that
because something is subjective it cannot be measured. When you
are having the subjective experience of champaigne tasting, you are
measuring the quality of the champaigne. And you can rank them.
And as you get more skilled in Champaigne tasting, you will find that
your rankings tend to converge with other people who are skilled
champaigne tasters. This is called 'developing one's taste' and
it is a universal human activity. Programming works the same way -
while one can talk about the qualities that make a program elegant,
thats is not the same thing as the subjective experience you got when
you looked at Holger's concise open-or-closed string detector.

We went 'wow, that's elegant' because, after all is said and done ... it's
elegant.

Laura
Laura Creighton
2002-05-16 00:52:38 UTC
Permalink
While Willie Nelson's 'blue eyes cryin in the rain' might not be Mozart, it
is vastly superior (in every respect) to say, the rapper of the week (or
that "modern art" that sits in front of county hall). And that ain't no
personal opinion - that is objective truth -
If it's objective, how do you measure it? Given
two alleged works of art, what procedure does one
use to determine which is better?
The ability to rank something and whether it is objective or not are
independent concepts. I spent a good part of yesterday at a
Champaigne testing. The highlight of the event was a tasting hosted
by Rikard Juhlin, perhaps the world's foremost expert on Champaigne.
12 champaignes, all very good/excellent from 1995 or 1996.

I could find the 3 best, and the 2 worst with no trouble, and there
was broad consensus in the room about this. There was disagreement
as to the precise ranking, however. The top 3 Champaignes were ranked
94, 94, and 95+ out of 100, by Juhlin, but I preferred a 94. I went
home thinking 'how splendid I have to work on my discernment more. A
pity we cannot live forever. So much awareness to develop, and so
little time to do it in. Rikard Juhlin can discern qualities which I
cannot.'

All Champaigne tasting is subjective. It is a subjective experience.
But some Champaignes are objectively better than others. And if all
you want to do is make Kir Royale (adding black current syrup to your
champaigne) pretty much anything with bubbles will do.

Laura Creighton
David LeBlanc
2002-05-20 19:11:57 UTC
Permalink
jacob at boris.cd.chalmers.se.cd.chalmers.se (Jacob Hallen) wrote in
The baroque went out of fashion over 200 years ago. Art is not merely
decorative and for amusement.
For something so "out of fashion" why do examples cost a bazillion dollars?

Art these days seems in large part to consist of anything that critics can
be persuaded is art. There's a PBS show running currently called "Egg" that
examines various facets of the American art scene. One recent artist they
profiled has a work of art that consists of many strands of spagetti glued
up into a shape that looks like a big blob of ... spagetti! In truth, some
of the other stuff this guy did was imo artistic, but the spagetti piece was
just old cold pasta! Another artist - Yoki Ono - has a piece that consists
of a video tape of people cutting her clothes off of her; so called
"performance art". If the people doing the cutting had worn jack boots and
swastikas, we would have called it inhumane and criminal yet somehow the
critics call it art.

Art is what you like, not what other people tell you you should like.

David LeBlanc
Seattle, WA USA
Greg Ewing
2002-05-16 00:14:11 UTC
Permalink
While Willie Nelson's 'blue eyes cryin in the rain' might not be Mozart, it
is vastly superior (in every respect) to say, the rapper of the week (or
that "modern art" that sits in front of county hall). And that ain't no
personal opinion - that is objective truth -
If it's objective, how do you measure it? Given
two alleged works of art, what procedure does one
use to determine which is better?
--
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
To get my email address, please visit my web page:
http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/~greg
Patrick
2002-05-17 14:27:30 UTC
Permalink
"James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com> wrote in message
[...]
Laura's choice of a particularly subjective example actually underscores
the point. Although there is a lot of inescapable subjectivity regarding
ranking wines, a general consensus nevertheless emerged regarding a great
number of "measurements".
It's possible that this consensus emerges as a result of training, rather
than as a result of any quality inherent in the wine. Or, on second
thoughts, both: An aspiring wine taster learns to recognise and appreciate
the very qualities that an expert has determined to be "good". To some
extent, the choice of these qualities is arbitrary, but once they've been
adequately described and considered authoritative, they can be recognised
and, to some extent, measured. Of course that says very little about whether
the tasters are recognising "quality", rather than "a quality". The latter
seems far more likely to me (which in no way undermines the value of refined
taste).
Greg Ewing
2002-05-16 23:56:43 UTC
Permalink
The ability to rank something and whether it is objective or not are
independent concepts.
But for the ranking to be objective, it has to be
independent of the person doing the ranking.
I could find the 3 best, and the 2 worst with no trouble, and there
was broad consensus in the room about this. There was disagreement
as to the precise ranking, however.
Which says to me that the ranking process is *not*
completely objective. Not because the process involves
people using their senses, but because the result
depends on who is doing it.
--
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
To get my email address, please visit my web page:
http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/~greg
Mark McEahern
2002-05-14 20:10:42 UTC
Permalink
[Matthew Diephouse]
Post by Matthew Diephouse
OBC2BIP - Only Bad Coders Code Badly In Perl
Yes, but perhaps only masochists even bother to try.

;-)

// mark
Huaiyu Zhu
2002-05-18 02:33:49 UTC
Permalink
Interestingly, if one admits archetypes (Plato) then the greatest
instruments of the senses (i.e. 'scientific' instruments) do not get one
inch closer to the archetypes themselves. All instruments, and all
measurement, depend on one of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch,
smell). The post powerful microscope, and the Hubble space telescope, are
nothing more than extensions of plain old human sight. If there is some
fundamental epistemological barrier to getting at the REAL with the senses,
instruments instead of being the solution, only extend the original
limitation, possibly even magnify it. Thus, no matter how
accurately/extensively/etc. you sense the shadow, you never get closer to
the REAL itself
There are so many incoherent statements in this paragraph that I should
probably just ignore it. But I couldn't resist the temptation ...

It is not a logical conclusion that if the final recipient has some
limitations then the delivery system cannot help. One of the main function
of scientific instruments it to transform signals from a range that is alien
to human senses to a range that is suitable. Thanks to the transformations,
the *effective range* of our senses augmented with the instruments is
fundamentally and substantially larger than that of the five senses alone.
A mere extention, you say.

Is there a fundamental epistemological barrier to getting at the REAL with
senses? This is a rhetorical and meaningless question. An epistemological
barrier is a fundamental barrier to knowledge, and by definition it is not
dependent on the senses. Is there a fundamental epistemological barrier to
knowing that pi is an irrational number with the senses? :-)

Of course there are plenty of limitation to our senses. Our sense of
electromagnetic field is limited to a very narrow frequency range. We
cannot tell most chemicals apart with our senses. And so on. But these are
not epistemological barriers. With correct instruments we can study these
phenomena just as easily and accurately (if not more) as things perceived
directly with our senses. In fact, most of human knowledge today is about
things that are outside the direct range of human senses (but are of course
in the extended range with the help of instruments).

So far there is only one fundamental epistemological barrier known to human
knowledge - the quantum uncertainty. But how could you say "you never get
closer to the REAL itself"? Our senses could only get to the details of
about 10^20 quanta apart, but with instruments we can get at the accuracy of
about a single quantum. This is 20 orders of magnitude improvement. The
fundamental barrier has nothing to do with the limitation of human senses.
The high way speed limit has nothing to do with how fast we can walk.

And all these are only about physical properties. Through social
interactions we can perceive things that are far way, things that happened
in the past, or things that are only imagined. We can feel the emotions of
others. Most of the time these properties are not transmitted directly
through the senses, but rather via various encodings (literature, art
recordings, photos, broadcasts, etc). Furthermore, it is not beyond
imagination that in some future days we might be able to transmit directly
such information from brain to brain without going through the senses at
all, not even with encodings.

You could dismiss all these as merely seeing the shadows. But that is a
very poor analogy [1]. It does not convey the sense of twenty orders of
magnitude sharper image of the shadows, nor the magnificent stories told by
these images. This much detail itself is knowledge. Unless you discount
all this knowledge and instead seek some else-worldly "truth" I cannot see
how you can say we cannot get more knowledge than through direct sense.

I'll left alone the statement that if there is such a fundamental barrier,
instruments might actually magnifies the limitation of senses. I hope you
do not mean that not knowing our limitation somehow reduces our ignorance.

Note:
[1] Incidentally, the Chinese word for movie consists of two characters
"electric showdow". This could be used as a much better but still very poor
analogy.


Huaiyu
Patrick
2002-05-18 17:15:20 UTC
Permalink
"Huaiyu Zhu" <huaiyu at gauss.almadan.ibm.com> wrote in message
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
It is not a logical conclusion that if the final recipient has some
limitations then the delivery system cannot help. One of the main function
of scientific instruments it to transform signals from a range that is alien
to human senses to a range that is suitable. Thanks to the
transformations,
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
the *effective range* of our senses augmented with the instruments is
fundamentally and substantially larger than that of the five senses alone.
A mere extention, you say.
And yet no sensory extension, no matter how elaborate, will ever be able to
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
pi :-)
To my mind, it is a perfectly logical conclusion that if the final recipient
has some limitations (eg. the assumption that all things "REAL" must be
entirely or partly perceptible), then the delivery systems indeed cannot
help.
Steve Holden
2002-05-19 19:20:00 UTC
Permalink
"Huaiyu Zhu" <huaiyu at gauss.almadan.ibm.com> wrote ...
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
Interestingly, if one admits archetypes (Plato) then the greatest
instruments of the senses (i.e. 'scientific' instruments) do not get one
inch closer to the archetypes themselves. All instruments, and all
measurement, depend on one of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch,
smell). The post powerful microscope, and the Hubble space telescope, are
nothing more than extensions of plain old human sight. If there is some
fundamental epistemological barrier to getting at the REAL with the senses,
instruments instead of being the solution, only extend the original
limitation, possibly even magnify it. Thus, no matter how
accurately/extensively/etc. you sense the shadow, you never get closer to
the REAL itself
There are so many incoherent statements in this paragraph that I should
probably just ignore it. But I couldn't resist the temptation ...
As Oscar Wilde once saud, "I can resist anything but temptation".
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
It is not a logical conclusion that if the final recipient has some
limitations then the delivery system cannot help. One of the main function
of scientific instruments it to transform signals from a range that is alien
to human senses to a range that is suitable. Thanks to the
transformations,
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
the *effective range* of our senses augmented with the instruments is
fundamentally and substantially larger than that of the five senses alone.
A mere extention, you say.
Well, perhaps he was arguing that such instruments represent an extension to
the human senses. Before charging the epistomological barricades, however,
you should consider whether Christopher isn't trying to represent the same
point of view promnoted by (for example) Bertrand Russell. The point is that
the only basis we ever have for knowledge is the interpretation of
sense-data - quite simply, the human organism isn't built to accept
information in any other way.

Thus, no matter how sophisticated the "amplification" of our senses provided
by instrumentation, there is really no way to conclude whether our
interpretation relates to an "objective reality", since even if we assume
that there *is* such a thing as objective reality we have no way to perceive
it other than by interpretation of sense-data.
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
Is there a fundamental epistemological barrier to getting at the REAL with
senses? This is a rhetorical and meaningless question. An
epistemological
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
barrier is a fundamental barrier to knowledge, and by definition it is not
dependent on the senses. Is there a fundamental epistemological barrier to
knowing that pi is an irrational number with the senses? :-)
Of course there are plenty of limitation to our senses. Our sense of
electromagnetic field is limited to a very narrow frequency range. We
cannot tell most chemicals apart with our senses. And so on. But these are
not epistemological barriers. With correct instruments we can study these
phenomena just as easily and accurately (if not more) as things perceived
directly with our senses. In fact, most of human knowledge today is about
things that are outside the direct range of human senses (but are of course
in the extended range with the help of instruments).
But arguably most human knowledge os not about objective reality. We simply
agree that particualr interpretations of sense-data we cna both experience
allow us to engage in meaningful communication.
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
So far there is only one fundamental epistemological barrier known to human
knowledge - the quantum uncertainty. But how could you say "you never get
closer to the REAL itself"? Our senses could only get to the details of
about 10^20 quanta apart, but with instruments we can get at the accuracy of
about a single quantum. This is 20 orders of magnitude improvement. The
fundamental barrier has nothing to do with the limitation of human senses.
The high way speed limit has nothing to do with how fast we can walk.
And all these are only about physical properties. Through social
interactions we can perceive things that are far way, things that happened
in the past, or things that are only imagined. We can feel the emotions of
others. Most of the time these properties are not transmitted directly
through the senses, but rather via various encodings (literature, art
recordings, photos, broadcasts, etc). Furthermore, it is not beyond
imagination that in some future days we might be able to transmit directly
such information from brain to brain without going through the senses at
all, not even with encodings.
But we have no way to distinguish between physical properties and social
interactions, since the only ways we can communicate involve agreement about
the ground-rules. It is, for example, very difficult to engage in
philosophical discussions with a determined solipsist, who sees all
perceptions as generated by the operation of her own senses - that is,
"objective reality" is produced by the operation of the human brain.
Therefore you are, to a solipsist, simply a manifestation of their own
thought processes, and have no objective (i.e. external) reality atr all.
Post by Huaiyu Zhu
You could dismiss all these as merely seeing the shadows. But that is a
very poor analogy [1]. It does not convey the sense of twenty orders of
magnitude sharper image of the shadows, nor the magnificent stories told by
these images. This much detail itself is knowledge. Unless you discount
all this knowledge and instead seek some else-worldly "truth" I cannot see
how you can say we cannot get more knowledge than through direct sense.
I'll left alone the statement that if there is such a fundamental barrier,
instruments might actually magnifies the limitation of senses. I hope you
do not mean that not knowing our limitation somehow reduces our ignorance.
[1] Incidentally, the Chinese word for movie consists of two characters
"electric showdow". This could be used as a much better but still very poor
analogy.
Our ignorance is absolute. We can only agree to agree, or to disagree. And
no matter how much we agree, this does not affect the nature of "objective
reality", which we can never perceive directly.


regards
Steve
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Brian McErlean
2002-05-14 14:27:27 UTC
Permalink
In article <mailman.1021198403.21335.python-list at python.org>, Oleg
Post by Oleg Broytmann
Hello. Little amusing offtopic. ;)
There is a nice idead pointed to by /. - a file with a program(s) that
solves a Perl Golf job. The amusing part is that the file contains the
program in 4 different languges!
[snip]
Hm. I remember seing a program that could be run in 6 different
languages once (including PostScript)... I don't remember where I saw
it, though -- it was on some obscure ftp server somewhere. (Or perhaps
it was even gopher -- don't remember.)
Probably this one : http://www.nyx.net/~gthompso/poly/polyglot.txt

Also, some other examples of polyglots are here:
http://www.nyx.net/~gthompso/poly/polyglot.htm

Brian.
Christopher Encapera
2002-05-17 14:46:39 UTC
Permalink
Sense this thread is seems to no longer be all about country music and
modern art, I thought I would break my self-imposed promise not to comment
further (although, I would expect the flames for it not being about Python
to occur very soon :)
Post by James J. Besemer
The ability to rank something and whether it is objective or not are
independent concepts.
But for the ranking to be objective, it has to be
independent of the person doing the ranking.
I think the argument is that there EXISTS an objective interpretation
independently of whether we humans can perceive it.
Plato argued this, furthermore suggesting that humans perception in the
matter is rather inaccurate. He used the analogy that reality was like
actors on a stage and we humans were chained in a position where we were
only able to observe the shadows these actors made on the wall. The fact
that our perception may be faulty and may admit some degree of
subjectivity and other misperceptions does not contradict the notion that
an objective reality truly exists. Even so-called objective scientific
experiments often yield results that include some percentage of error or
otherwise are ambiguous.
Perhaps a clearer illustration: physical objects can be measured by humans
to varying degrees of accuracy depending on what instruments we use.
Without the instruments we can still estimate physical dimensions and we
can make fairly objective decisions about relative size. We can be misled
by optical illusions or other misdirection. Nevertheless, the objects
themelves still possess those physical characteristics, whether we measure
them or not.
Interestingly, if one admits archetypes (Plato) then the greatest
instruments of the senses (i.e. 'scientific' instruments) do not get one
inch closer to the archetypes themselves. All instruments, and all
measurement, depend on one of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch,
smell). The post powerful microscope, and the Hubble space telescope, are
nothing more than extensions of plain old human sight. If there is some
fundamental epistemological barrier to getting at the REAL with the senses,
instruments instead of being the solution, only extend the original
limitation, possibly even magnify it. Thus, no matter how
accurately/extensively/etc. you sense the shadow, you never get closer to
the REAL itself
Post by James J. Besemer
Which says to me that the ranking process is *not*
completely objective. Not because the process involves
people using their senses, but because the result
depends on who is doing it.
Laura's choice of a particularly subjective example actually underscores
the point. Although there is a lot of inescapable subjectivity regarding
ranking wines, a general consensus nevertheless emerged regarding a great
number of "measurements".
Of course, there are some matters that are purely subjective. I think the
difference is when humans begin to pass judgement on things, rather than
merely measure them. E.g,, I can imagine two similar wines of equal
overall quality. Some people will prefer one and others may prefer
another. Make it easy and say the wines were a red and a white and some
people's preferences will be even more pronounced. That's not to say one
wine is better than the other, it's mere subjective Judgement -- a matter
of taste. But there are objective qualities that separate the wines
(e.g., acid, sugar and tannin levels) that form an objective basis for the
subjective judgement. Measurement is (can be) objective but judgement by
it's nature is subjective. Measurement implies an objective framework of
reference while judgement generally implies extrapolation beyond commonly
agreed upon criteria.
Of course, the debate of whether or not an objective reality actually
exists independently of human subjective perception and judgement has been
argued at length by smarter philosophers than me, long before I was born.
E.g., Physicsts get rather dogmatic about equating unmeasureable with
unknowable, leading to some curious paradoxes.
A lot of geeks tend to go overboard on the 'objective reality' side of
things. They presume that everything is knowable if only we can gather
enough data. Often they mistakenly include things that are purely
subjective, purely a matter of personal judgement rather than objective
reality. Many flames and religious wars otherwise would be averted.
One of those domains that dogmatic philosophical materialists reject on the
basis of their presuppositions are the domains that most of us admit are
real, but nonetheless do not admit to the measurement of the five senses, is
the domain of the 'spiritual'. Hope, Love, the human soul, etc, are by
their nature not amenable to measurement by the senses, and thus will never
be understandable, provable, etc. to the materialist mind. Fortunately, the
search for truth, which is at the bottom of the scientific method, is not
restricted to materialist notions of reality. Unfortunately, today the
domain of the "Scientific community" and "Dogmatic philosophical
materialist" overlap, to a very high degree (98, 99%?). This leads to
unfortunate consequences for the search of truth, namely it obstructs/delays
it. Let me cite an example from my own experience: As an undergraduate
psych major, I noticed that standard psychological theory (which is
materialist to the core) could not explain why Alcoholics Anonymous happens
to be the most effective treatment for alcoholism. Every attempt to
understand/study/explain it by psychologists either ring hollow, or they
themselves admitted were weak. The answer is obvious to a non-dogmatic
materialist - AA admits and works with a non material side of man - namely
the spiritual. One day in class I brought this point up and the embarrassed
professor said something to the effect of "well, that is not what we do
here". He was right, the spiritual can never (by definition) be part of a
materialist understanding. Fortunately for alcoholic, and the future of
science, a truthful understanding is not necessarily a materialist one. "He
that is good with the hammer tends to see everything as a nail".
Philosophical materialists have been very successful at explaining/taking
advantage of (i.e. technology) material(5 sense) reality. The domain of
Truth is larger than the domain of 'the material', even in such a small part
of the universe as a single human person... (: repeat after me, "I am not
merely a brain, I am not merely a brain" ;)
Post by James J. Besemer
Regards
--jb
Steve Holden
2002-05-19 19:21:47 UTC
Permalink
"James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com> wrote
[...]
Post by James J. Besemer
As an affirmed Atheist I will strive to tread carefully here so as not to
give
Post by James J. Besemer
offense.
What, change the habits of a lifetime? ;-)

regards
Steve
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Python Web Programming http://pydish.holdenweb.com/pwp/
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Stephen J. Turnbull
2002-05-16 06:52:37 UTC
Permalink
Andrew> But that's just the free market economist inside me
Andrew> speaking. I've got to let him out every once in a while
Andrew> otherwise he gets too riled up on the free (Python)
Andrew> software I develop. :)

If your mental FME feels that way about free software, you should get
him to a therapist. In the meantime, repeat the holy mantra

de gustibus non disputandum

until enlightened.<wink>

Why-yes-I-do-have-a-PhD-in-Economics-ly y'rs,
--
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
My nostalgia for Icon makes me forget about any of the bad things. I don't
have much nostalgia for Perl, so its faults I remember. Scott Gilbert c.l.py
Andrew Dalke
2002-05-15 20:54:24 UTC
Permalink
Christopher Encapera being dismissive of
that "modern art" that sits in front of county hall
I live in Santa Fe, NM, which has something like 200-300 art
galleries (in a town of 68,000). As a consequence, the public
art in town is quite decent. One way to think of it is that
since so much of the art in town is based around selling the
art, there's a tendency to pick artistic paths which are also
salable, bringing economic inventive to produce enjoyable are.

But that's just the free market economist inside me speaking.
I've got to let him out every once in a while otherwise he
gets too riled up on the free (Python) software I develop. :)

Andrew
dalke at dalkescientific.com
P.S.
And because I see price tags on art all the time, I'm getting
this strange ability to be able to ballpark the estmated price
of art.
James_Althoff
2002-05-15 22:52:21 UTC
Permalink
[James J. Besemer]
|admit was OK and some of it was absolutely fabulous. It's especially
|curious to see the various Elvis and Beatles songs that are pretty
|direct rip offs from Hank Williams.

Yep. If you can't dig Hank, you got a hole in your soul!

Jim
Simon Brunning
2002-05-15 15:27:50 UTC
Permalink
From: Christopher Encapera [SMTP:ChrisE at lantech.com]
Well said. I think one should keep in mind though the difference between
art and art. If you mean the art that sits in front of many of our
institutions ("modern" art) and the like, it deserves our universal
condemnation, and indeed our deep hatred ;) If you however mean art, as
in
the art of cooking, or the martial arts, then of course we should not shy
away from calling programming (or engineering) an art. In my opinion, the
art is found not only at the top level, but at the very beginning. If
python has anything to do with art, however, then I am deeply offended,
and
will unsubscribe to this list immediately and never program again...:)
People really should learn the difference between things which are not to
their personal taste, and thing which are bad.

I, for example, can't stand country and western music. Hate the stuff. But I
would not be so arrogant as to suggest that those who *do* like country and
western are wrong, and that it's a bad thing. It's just not my cup of tea.

If you don't appreciate modern art, well, fair enough. But 'universal
condemnation and hatred'? Did your wife leave you for a conceptual artist,
or something?

Cheers,
Simon Brunning
TriSystems Ltd.
sbrunning at trisystems.co.uk




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David LeBlanc
2002-05-19 20:03:30 UTC
Permalink
You're pretty much correct. For years Microsoft hired mainly (>90%) recent
college graduates to fill in the trenches and the balance where the
experienced cadre that, in theory, guided them. College grads are cheap,
idealistic enough to work for about half what their peers make for the
prestiege of working at MS and do it for 70-80 hours a week for 5 years.
They also had the right "make my mark on the world and I can do anything
better then what's come before" (aka "not invented here")

Times have changed though. When I contracted at MS again last year, I was
struck by how things had changed. There where far fewer offices that looked
like recreations of a dorm room or some "Dungeons and Dragons" fantasy
(still a fair amount of "6 computers and 8 monitors" hardware geeks around
though - amount of hardware in one's office is an internal prestige/power
thing), people where generally older (in their 30's now!), a _lot_ of
offspring came to the Holloween Party and the building generally got pretty
quiet by 6 PM. Still a lot of Microsoft "culture" around, but nothing like
my first stint at MS in '96.

David LeBlanc
Seattle, WA USA
-----Original Message-----
From: python-list-admin at python.org
[mailto:python-list-admin at python.org]On Behalf Of Steve Holden
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2002 12:08
To: python-list at python.org
Subject: Re: OT: Crazy Programming
<snip>
This hasn't stopped some pretty baroque architectures being designed for
software systems. In my experience, the more baroque the architecture the
less experienced the designer (which is why I sometimes
disparagingly refer
to microsoft systems as being written by recent graduates. We all have to
learn somehow ;-)
regards
Steve
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Python Web Programming http://pydish.holdenweb.com/pwp/
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Magnus Lie Hetland
2002-05-14 10:09:28 UTC
Permalink
In article <mailman.1021198403.21335.python-list at python.org>, Oleg
Post by Oleg Broytmann
Hello. Little amusing offtopic. ;)
There is a nice idead pointed to by /. - a file with a program(s) that
solves a Perl Golf job. The amusing part is that the file contains the
program in 4 different languges!
[snip]

Hm. I remember seing a program that could be run in 6 different
languages once (including PostScript)... I don't remember where I saw
it, though -- it was on some obscure ftp server somewhere. (Or perhaps
it was even gopher -- don't remember.)

--
Magnus Lie Hetland The Anygui Project
http://hetland.org http://anygui.org
Jacob Hallen
2002-06-03 16:36:15 UTC
Permalink
In article <mailman.1021921632.6771.python-list at python.org>,
Post by David LeBlanc
jacob at boris.cd.chalmers.se.cd.chalmers.se (Jacob Hallen) wrote in
The baroque went out of fashion over 200 years ago. Art is not merely
decorative and for amusement.
For something so "out of fashion" why do examples cost a bazillion dollars?
Art these days seems in large part to consist of anything that critics can
be persuaded is art. There's a PBS show running currently called "Egg" that
examines various facets of the American art scene. One recent artist they
profiled has a work of art that consists of many strands of spagetti glued
up into a shape that looks like a big blob of ... spagetti! In truth, some
of the other stuff this guy did was imo artistic, but the spagetti piece was
just old cold pasta! Another artist - Yoki Ono - has a piece that consists
of a video tape of people cutting her clothes off of her; so called
"performance art". If the people doing the cutting had worn jack boots and
swastikas, we would have called it inhumane and criminal yet somehow the
critics call it art.
Without the jack boots and swastikas it is called "lure for gullible idiots".
Witn the jack boots and swastikas it is called "beware of gullible idiots".

Jacob


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