Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The knife is out for ruby ... ORLY?

Warning: Link Bait

From Hacker News, comes "The Knife is out for Ruby". "Dynamic languages are coming to the end of their honeymoon period. This is bad for Python and maybe PHP, but it is nothing short of a disaster for Ruby."

... leaving aside the religious war of Static vs. Typed language, how about viewing this from the point of view of Pragmatic Extropy?

"Type safe static languages like C#, Java and Managed COBOL are much more challenging to work with, or at least they were."

... X is better because it is more challenging to work with. Does that mean that the programmer has to be smarter?

"However, the gap is closing or may have completely closed. Type inference, generics and much better IDEs have made static languages really easy to work with. The permissive nature of dynamic languages is only really treating the symptom that programmers do not want to have to remember and key-in everything's type."

... X is better because it forces you to think through about issues Y?

Scrolling down to the comments, the author reveals a bit about himself:
"My day job is in a compiler writing team. I spend a lot of time in a lot of different languages. My view is that dynamic languages make sense for code bases which do no justify heavy tooling and which are not going to be around for a very long time. I used to think that dynamic languages were a lot more useful than that because of productivity - but recent advances in IDEs and type systems have convinced me that even if it is not the case now, over the next few years the difference in productivity will diminish a lot."

I was talking to folks on #pragmatic_extropy about my experience geocaching with a friend. I watched my friend get so dependent on the GPS, missing out obvious environmental cues and clues. I promised myself that I wouldn't do that if I held the GPS in my hand. My friend got a call and handed me to the GPS, and within five minutes, he was pointing out cues I missed because I was navigating with the GPS.

The GPS had easily become an extension. The neural net of the brain adapts to the external interface, in which the external interface becomes part of the complete circuit. There's a paper written about the phenomena of two neural nets forming an internal language idiosyncratic to those two particular neural nets. You can see it in two intimately-close people who have been around each other for a long time. Likewise, I remember an article about how family groups would socially (and unconsciously) assign specialty knowledge to specific family members. The same is true for any tool we use -- tab completion on the command line for example. I don't feel right without being able to hit the tab key since I remember filenames more on the first few letters and the number of tabs I have to hit. Other tools include code snippets, VIM cursor controls, distributed version control ... and IDE-based type inference and whatnot.

Some languages, however, such as Lisp, has the rare ability to transform how we think because the language is powerfully expressive enough. Its power derives from having very little syntax and does not require external tools to grok. Someone programming in .NET, for example, require an IDE to be productive because the IDE forms the complete neural circuit. Something like Lisp (within certain cases) has the complete neural circuit held inside the head. There is more transformative value for a Lisp-user than a .NET-user, even with a better IDE. While it can be argued that the IDE closes the gap in terms of productivity, it does not close the gap in terms of arete, though it may go with the grain of extropy.

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