05 January 2006

Poetic logic

most of the biggest intellectual challenges we face
boil down to aspects of the same challenge:

- a physiological model of the brain
- computer-game characters that are psychologically realistic
- a universal topic-indexing system (for webpages and local files)
- smart applications that can guess what you're trying to do
- an intuitive programming language

and in each case we can imagine that the
we need to cross
is the gap between science and art

snow's two cultures
with their orthogonal
orders of merit

for it's the literary novelists
who have the best grasp of psychological characters

and it's an intuitive art to
discern the human priorities
that make an app
or an indexing scheme
or a programming language
or fit

all programming languages are built on
a shared set of basic data types:
boolean integer real literal string
that could hardly be more abstract

and they're combined via the cpu's
very limited, very abstract
instruction set

and any random segment of computer code
will tell you little or nothing
about what sort of program it comes from

but suppose we start a database of code segments
and request of programmers
that each time they use a segment
they annotate the database
with a description of the realworld problem
that segment was meant to solve

which would mean, first of all
specifying what units of measure
the integers and reals were measuring

what realworld propositions
the booleans were asserting or denying

what realworld entities
the strings and literals described

and as our database bogs down
in an infinity of particulars

we try to sort and generalise and categorise
the ways code fragments can map onto the world

and perhaps we find
that identical fragments
form distinct ensembles

(time is like space
a continuous dimension
except when it isn't)

so now our simple data types
and opcodes
are seen to have a new
barely articulated
of semantics

necessarily encompassing
the entirety of human experience

often boiling down
to units of measure

grams dollars pixels seconds

or strength agility courage health