Bret Victor is awesome

I’d never heard of Bret Victor until this video went around (viral?) last year:

Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

I can’t describe how inspired I was.  In the past people have talked about how inspiring speakers are, but apart from a few catchy quotes I was never blown away in the way people describe.  Until this video.

I responded strongly to the practical examples he showed, but I also took to heart the point of his talk – what am I doing with my skills?  Am I changing the world or killing time cashing a paycheck?

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” — Jeff Hammerbacher

Then few months later I came across an article about how programming is learned and taught and how programming languages could be designed much much better.  In a lot of ways it reminded me of the Bret Victor talk, and it wasn’t until I got to the end and saw who wrote it that I realized that the similarity was because it was also written by him.

Bret Victor is awesome.

This next bit is less uplifting.

Responding to the original video, I decided that I did want to change the world and something that I felt strongly about and might be able to affect was freedom on the Internet.  This was about the time that SOPAPIPACISPA and ACTA were raising their heads, so I thought the issue could be settled once and for all if Internet censorship etc. was just fundamentally flat out impossible.  I had the solution all designed in my head, but hesitated on investing a lot of time on implementing it because there’s no point in having a solution if nobody’s going to use it.  I really didn’t feel that anything created by one guy in his spare time could end up being the backbone of the Internet.  It turned out I was right – the solution already exists and nobody uses it.  I suppose on the up side their solution is pretty close to mine, so if I’d actually implemented it, it probably would have worked.  I guess I’ll have to come up with something else revolutionary to do.

The article on programming languages made me realize why I felt so disappointed in Go and Dart – if anyone had the resources to do something revolutionary it was Google, and instead they created programming languages that were only incremental improvements on existing ones.  It takes a lot of effort to learn a new programming language, so if you’re going to invest that much effort in something it might as well be a leap forward.

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