August 12, 2011

Smart enough to predict stupidity

I think the root of your mistake is saying that macros don't scale to larger groups. The real truth is that macros don't scale to stupider groups.
--Paul Graham on ll1

People who design programming languages sometimes like to imagine an idealized "average programmer" who will employ their design. The underlying assumption being that the language designer is smarter than the "average programmer," and will set out to protect the latter from their own incompetence.

The arrogance behind this view is twofold - not only is the language designer deeming himself objectively smarter than other people, but that he will be able to predict how other people's stupidity will play out. In view of this egotism, the (lack of) quality of the end result should not be surprising.

This objection -- "but bad programmers will make a mess of it" -- is the stock objection everybody makes to every unorthodox programming construct. Since it is an objection to everything, it is an objection to nothing.
--Daniel Gackle on programming language features

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