“We understand automobiles. There are no homeopathic automobile repair shops, that try to repair your car by putting inﬁnitesimal dilutions of rust in the gas tank. There are no automotive faith healers, who lay their hands on the hood and pray. People reserve such superstitions for things that they don’t understand very well, such as the human body… … Superstitions arise because we don’t understand. If this trend continues, we may soon see homeopathic computer repair. Perhaps it will consist of adding a virus to a program, deleting the virus, and then running the program. You may soon be able to take your laptop to a faith healer, who will lay his hands on the keyboard and pray for the recovery of the operating system. Is this the future of computing? Or can we instead build on the idea that a computer program is a mathematical object that can be understood through logic?”
“Nowadays, a real engineer is given a big software library, with a 300-page manual that’s full of errors. He’s also given a robot, whose exact behavior is extremely hard to characterize (what happens when a wheel slips?). The engineer must learn to perform scientific experiments to find out how the software and hardware actually work, at least enough to accomplish the job at hand. Gerry pointed out that we may not like it this way (”because we’re old fogies”), but that’s the way it is, and M.I.T. has to take that into account.”
Programmers have managed to create a universe where “science doesn’t work.” Superstition will thrive there, because the human mind demands pattern; it insists on at least the illusion of understanding, of predictability. Learning where the permanent bugs and workarounds are inside a phonebook-length API teaches you nothing. It is anti-knowledge. Where your mind could have instead held something lastingly useful or truly beautiful, there is now garbage. Most of what passes for learning in today’s computing field is ultimately worth about as much as a primitive shaman’s repertoire of magical rituals.