On Mistrusting “The Right People (TM).”

“Throughout my life I have known people who were born with silver spoons in their mouths. You know the ones: grew up in a strong community, went to good public or private schools, were able to attend a top undergraduate school like Harvard or Caltech, and then were admitted to the best graduate schools. Their success was assured, and it seemed to come easy for them. These are the people— in many, but certainly not in all cases—who end up telling the rest of us how to go about our business in computing. They figure out the theories of computation and the semantics of our languages; they define the software methodologies we must use. It’s good to have their perspective, but it’s only a perspective, not one necessarily gained by working in the trenches or watching the struggles of people grappling with strange concepts. Worse, watching their careers can discourage the rest of us, because things don’t come easy for us, and we lose as often or more often than we win. And discouragement is the beginning of failure. Sometimes people who have not had to struggle are smug and infuriating. This is my attempt to fight back. Theirs is a proud story of privilege and success. Mine is a story of disappointment and failure; I ought to be ashamed of it, and I should try to hide it. But I learned from it, and maybe you can, too.”

- Richard P. Gabriel, “A Personal Narrative: Journey to Stanford” (Patterns of Software)

I highly recommend the book, despite vehemently disagreeing with almost every major point made by the author (whom I simply cannot forgive for giving bad-engineering-as-a-virtue a firm philosophical foundation.) RPG remains a top Lisp intellect, and anything he says is worth some serious contemplation.

As I pore over the infamous Lambda Papers, I cannot help but wonder if some of the otherwise bulletproof and immediately relevant (even in our Software Dark Age) ideas within are ignored simply because they carry the faint but even now unmistakable smell of MIT/Symbolics arrogance. I am reminded of how the marginalization and nearly outright obliteration of the once-mighty American railroads was eased by remembered public hatred for Gilded Age abuses — to the enthusiastic applause of auto firms.

This entry was written by Stanislav , posted on Sunday July 20 2008 , filed under Books, Hot Air, Lisp, LispMachine, MIT, Philosophy, SoftwareArchaeology, SoftwareSucks, Symbolics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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