Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Assigned Meaning

In an article on what traits a computer programmer needs to be successful the following comment was made on the outcome of the study.

Dehnadi and Bornat's thesis is that the single biggest predictor of likely aptitude for programming is a deep comfort with meaninglessness:
What makes computers so interesting to me is that all you have is a gazillion on/off switches. There is no alphabet in your computer. There are only switches. So how does the computer send an e-mail? Meaning has been assigned to certain patterns in the switching matrix. Now it helps (sometimes) if the meanings assigned are consistent. But the essence is: there is no intrinsic meaning to anything going on in the inside of a computer. Short version: meaning is dependent on context. And that is very profound in all kinds of situations. Like how do you communicate with someone who has a far different set of contexts? In computing you ask: is that block of bits you have supposed to be interpreted as numbers or text? What kind of numbers? What (human) language? To get the meanings entirely correct the context has to be spelled out in detail. Which is to say that communications between humans is very difficult. We assume contexts which may not be relevant. This leads to miscommunication.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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