Paul Graham

A friend of mine passed along the link to this article by Paul Graham, talking about what distinguishes great hackers from the rest of us, in light of my entry discussing the extreme gradient in the ability of programmers. I liked the article a lot, partially because it’s eloquent, but mostly because he has similar thoughts to ones I’ve had. His analysis of how great hackers should be used behind the scenes to architect things, so that “the less smart people writing the actual applications wouldn’t be doing low-level stuff like allocating memory. Instead of writing Word directly in C, they’d be plugging together big Lego blocks of Word-language. (Duplo, I believe, is the technical term.)” ties in nicely with my projections of where things are heading in the software industry. I also agree with his sentiment that hackers question the assumptions (his quote: “Programs are very complex and, at least in the hands of good programmers, very fluid. In such situations it’s helpful to have a habit of questioning assumptions.”)

I don’t know who Paul Graham is. From poking around his site a bit, he sounds like an accomplished Lisp hacker. He’s written a bunch of thoughtful articles, primarily on programming, but a few in other areas. I particularly liked this article about the unpopularity of nerds, where he points out that being popular in high school, dressing right and acting right and everything, is a lot of work, and nerds can’t be bothered because they’d rather be smart and curious than popular. Interesting analysis of the dynamics of high school, especially in retrospect.

Some neat stuff. I’m not too interested in his programming essays, mostly because they seem to often end up proselytizing for Lisp, but the couple social essays I read were pretty interesting. I’ll keep an eye on his site in the future, I think.