Giles Bowkett turns language elitism upside down
To say that Lisp is a language of the gods, and Java is a language for mortals, that could in fact be getting everything entirely backwards. Scheme is actually easier to use than Java. So the easier language is the language of the gods, and the hard one is the one for regular people? How does that make sense?
Isn’t the idea that languages like Scheme and SmallTalk are easier to use than languages like C# and Java
very interesting? Is this true? How could this be? The conventional wisdom is that languages like Scheme are too abstract
. How could so-called novices grasp concepts like recursion, mapping, and folding when they have trouble remembering that the
method must be
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Could it be that more abstract languages are smaller
languages? With a more abstract language, there are obviously fewer things you need to use to write even complex functions. That’s the expressiveness people talk about: everyone grasps the idea that some languages let you express an algorithm in fewer bits of information. So with these languages, you need to use fewer bits of information to express each idea.
Could it be that these same languages require you to learn fewer bits of information as well?
I am reminded of one of those silly “Men are from Mars, degrees are from mail-order stores
” aphorisms. The idea was that every bit of kindness is worth one point, no more no less. One rose? One point. A dozen roses? The same one point.
We talk about some ideas (like mapping and folding) as if they are intrinsically harder to grasp and learn than other ideas (like iteration). But maybe it doesn’t require more bits to learn? Maybe map is one point and iteration is one point, even though we want to think that map is twelve points and iteration is two points?
If that’s the case, could a language with fewer ideas that can be combined in succinct ways be easier to learn than a language with lots of different weak ideas?