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Re: learning languages [Was: Re: Y Store now C++]

On Fri, Mar 14, 2003 at 07:35:00PM -0500, Neil W. Van Dyke wrote:
> Adam Turoff <ziggy@panix.com> writes at 19:23 14-Mar-2003 -0500:
> > I really don't care *why* there's a difference between good and bad
> > programmers.  I'm just accepting that a difference exists, and those
> > differences impact a person's ability to learn a new language.
> But the *why* tells you whether it's a wholly necessary difference or a
> difference that can be addressed to some extent.  And the why might
> suggest how to address.

I don't know if the differences *can* be addressed.  Much of the
differences in programmer capabilities mimic the same kinds of
distributions found with other endeavors.  

If you look at carpentry, there is a definite bell-curve distribution
in skills.  On the far (hacker) end, you have cabinetmakers who
can build beautiful pieces of furniture with great skill.  The
joints are square, the pieces are perfectly level, and the woods
are chosen for specific properties they lend to a piece.  At the
opposite side of the spectrum, you have the "homeowner", someone
who is capable of nailing a picture hook into a wall, but not
necessarily in a very elegant or efficient manner.  But he gets
the job done, and it's a waste of time to argue that he needs to
hire a cabinetmaker each and every time he needs to hang a picture.

In the fat belly of the bell curve, you have the everyday carpenter.
He's good enough to do wood frame construction to build a house, and can
make perfectly perpendicular walls to a greater or a lesser degree.

It's a folly to try and make carpentry tools that can turn a simple
homeowner into a master cabinetmaker.  On the other hand, the advent of
modern power tools have amplified the effectiveness of a cabinetmaker
(one person can do the work that once took a shop full of apprenticies),
and have possibly opened up the art of cabinet making to a great many
more people.  But the same power tools have also increased the
opportunity to cut off your fingers or seriously injure yourself very

Finally, there is nothing pre-determined or deterministic about the
labels 'homeowner', 'carpenter' or 'cabinet maker'.  The one factor that
separates them, aside from skill, is the desire to learn and practice
their skills.  Although anyone can progress along the skill continuum,
not everyone does, and not everyone needs or wants to.

There *are* ways to increase the ability of the homeowner.  Ikea
has certainly mastered that art.  However, it usually involves
preprocessing the materials, dumbing down the construction and
limiting the design possibilities.  In many situations, this is
perfectly acceptable, although it is neither beautiful nor particularly
long lasting.  But it is functional and disposable, which is probably
a better solution in many cases - like dorm furniture.

> I'm generally skeptical of dismissive arguments of genetic superiority.
> It's too easy to embrace them in self-serving ways that impede
> intelligent thought.

You're the only person who is linking differences between programmers to
genetic superiority.  I certainly never mentioned, asserted or implied it.