Programmers and Unreality

Programmers and Unreality

Anyone around the block long enough to remember the Jargon File is old enough to remember when the hacker community had a strong live-and-let live ethos that respected excellence and actively worked to promote achievement. Now, I can think of few communities more mired in leftist monoculture and woke. Stallman was never of the right, but he's far from the only casualty in a purge that has pushed out greats such as Eric S Raymond.

How did a community that dealt in hard logic and engineering end up so vehemently at odds with reality?

Sure, some of it can be blamed on the same cultural woes that gave us woke in general, and poisoned the millennials. This includes a lot less hands-on support and practice-through example of the basics of electrical work, carpentry, plumbing, and physical labor. Yes, there's the "maker" community that still has to make their flights of fancy work in the real world, but many of our self-styled betters have done far too little manual labor, and actively look down on those who spend their lives doing it. One person I know, moving out of New York, decried the loss of "intellectualism" she was exposed to. Another was shocked at the thought of suggesting a high school child should consider working in the oil fields instead of going to college (this was pre-Biden, obviously).

In the end, it's programming itself. More to the point, the shift to more and more abstract languages divorced from hardware.

For the record, I know C, but not assembler.

But it's hard logic and math, right?

Well, yes.

But.

In programming, one can change what a variable "is" by simply swapping out it's value.  If you change the variable thingOverThere from "cat" to "car", you've changed what it is - simply by saying so. Perhaps it's nothing more effective than changing the word on a screen. Or perhaps it causes the program to run a completely different set of code.

In short, programmers spend their lives immersed in a world where they can redefine the "reality" of the program by simply renaming or relabeling something. Sure, it still has to be internally consistent, or it crashes, but there's a reason one of the oldest expressions in programming is GIGO - Garbage IN, Garbage Out - the observation that a computer will do exactly what you tell it, and feeding it crap assumptions/data//inputs only gets you crap results.

Incidentally, the creation of the program itself is an input.

We have people conditioned to believe "the computer says you don't exist" isn't just a joke derived from similar bitter observations of bureaucratic cock-ups, but that we can remake things by naming them so. That the "map" of a computer program isn't just a model of the territory, but is the territory. That in conjunction with the post-modern attitude that there is no truth, only narrative and social convention, we can remake things by renaming them.

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