Monday, January 11, 2010

Latin, Programming, & Business

In the comments, David Foster linked to one of his old posts on business education:
Michael Hammer, the renowned management consultant, says this: I often recall advice once offered to me by a senior executive at a major pharmaceutical firm, an Englishman with the advantage of a traditional public school education. "All one need learn," he said, "is Latin and computer programming--Latin for communication and programming for thinking." He wasn't far off.

FLG doesn't know Latin, but he certainly agrees that his knowledge of French helps his English grammar. Furthermore, learning a second language does focus the mind into a conscious consideration of what one is trying to communicate rather than the more instinctual manner in which one communicates using a maternal language.

Also, as some of you know, FLG was once an engineering student. As such, he took the core engineering classes -- physics, chemistry, math, programming, etc. Therefore, when he argues that liberal arts are more important than science and math he does so with some understanding of what each entails. FLG certainly finds his programming knowledge helpful in many circumstances, but he can't entirely agree with this:
Each line of software that you write will interact with each and every other line of software. Unless you develop some big-picture thinking capability, your program will never work.

Yes, it's true. But programming is deterministic. FLG has argued previously that this determinism seeps into the cognition of programmers. If one learns programming, but doesn't imbibe of the deterministic way of looking at the world, then he'll agree it's beneficial.

Miss Self-Important also brought up a good point in the comments -- by the time somebody is in a MBA program they're an adult and if they haven't learned to think by then, well, they're a lost cause. No amount of forcing poorly designed, miniature liberal arts courses on them will change it. Furthermore, it's pretty fucking condescending.

1 comment:

David said...

"programming is deterministic. FLG has argued previously that this determinism seeps into the cognition of programmers"

Dr Hammer would probably have argued that the liberal arts component of his 2-part program would help to offset any such deterministic thinking.

Also...I wonder if programmers who work on programs which control physical things (aircraft autopilots, electrical grids, chemical plants, etc) might have less of this deterministic attitude? Although these systems may be deterministic in an ultimate philosophical sense, they often have elements that appear nondeterministic to humans.

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