May 17, 2003
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It really gets bad....

"Why do you love computers?", Prof. dr. Johnny Sue Golding asks. She's got pinned straight off, a talent that doubtless comes in handy in seminar. "Why computers?"

Lots of shiny new Powerbooks and iBooks are in evidence here, and lots of horsepower -- people aren't talking about their book, they're all talking about their last book or their other publisher or the amusing problems with the Turkish edition. But people really dislike these machines they use every day to write their books. They use them anyway -- even Prof. Sheena Calvert, who starts from 4" Powerbook windows and winds up with gorgeously hand-printed (for letterpress is to mechanical for her, and she loathes lithography) pages bound in red leather by a particularly talented Dutch monk who resides not far from here.

The computers are used, but they are not loved, and this crowd loves to love things. The problem, I think, is that in this entire, crowded room, I might be the only person who has ever written a line of code.

Let's face it: the whole joy of computing starts when we tell the machine what to be. Otherwise, it's a versatile hammer -- an expensively fragile hammer that sometimes crashes and sometimes does the wrong thing for entirely mysterious reasons.

Computing is obviously the most important accomplishment of our time. How strange, then, that [more] philosophers don't experience programming.

Revision: What was I thinking? Of course, many philosophers do experience programming. Obvious and necessary qualification added in square brackets above. You all can stop mailing me now. Sorry!