Sunday, August 31, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] Programming is a creative activity

(Before I continue, much if what I'll be sharing is my opinion, fed by thirty years of teaching computer science, and let's say about forty-five years of programming and working in the arts.)

Programming, in my very humble opinion, is both an art and a science. Yes, there is a mathematical logic to any computer program, but the act of writing a good, readable, comprehendable program is an act of creativity. Some have even dared compare it to creative writing, but I'll step around that idea for the present.

It's a true shame that software engineers have tried to make people believe that the development of computer programs can be automated, and that there is no creativity in the process. Funny, but it reminds me if the argument that music "written" by a computer program is not a work of art. But I say that the original program, and the subsequent music, are together a work of art, that there was a creative, artistic process at work that led to the program, which in turn created music.

When a programmer arrives at a new solution to an existing problem, we occassionally call it an elegant solution, if the method is not only novel, but well thought out, and shows a creative use of existing ideas. Elegant. A computer program can be elegant. Imagine that.

Then again, true science, not an engineering approximation, is a discipline that often leads to elegant, creative, artistic solutions to problems. But are not artists scientists as well? Are not potters material scientists? Are not composers physicists?

By the way, I have found that music majors often make the best programs. I wonder why?

William J. Joel, Computer Science
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