Subject: Re: Newbie questions [Followup to comp.lang.lisp]
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/05/07
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Joachim Achtzehnter <>
| There is a lot of research going on in the area of virtual types and
| genericity.  Don't be surprised to see a revision of C++ templates in the
| future, or the emergence of a new language.  In fact, the discussion
| about adding genericity to Java has prompted a lot of activity in this
| area of research.  The point with all this is that languages that are
| alive tend to learn from experience and improve over time.

  I tend to think of this in terms of young people who learn something that
  older people have known for decades.  the world is getting increasingly
  complex, so the effort needed to get up to speed also increases and young
  people need to work harder to catch up.  and when they do, they have a
  steeper "gradient" than the older people they catch up with, so it is
  only natural that they want to continue with their catch-up speed and go
  on to do new stuff at a higher pace than they think the old people do.
  that's why you find new languages picking up a lot of _experimental_
  stuff that is "new" in some sense of the word, but which older people
  know to be junk, because it's something they discarded long ago, and
  people who catch up don't see where people retracked after going wrong,
  only where they went and decided to proceed.  similarly, new languages
  will do a lot of "research" and get a lot of funding for concepts and
  ideas that have previously been discarded.  however, to make this fly,
  they have to call it something else, the same way people who want to
  "circumvent" patents have to do _something_ clever on their own that lets
  them use somebody else's inventions.  except that regurgitated research
  uses somebody else's money by fooling people who don't know that it
  didn't work the last time around.

  and with all these new languages and regurgitated research, progress is
  _actually_ moving a lot slower than it would have if people could just
  stick to using other people's inventions instead of optimizing for their
  own degrees and for funding fun research and publicity hunters.

| I don't share your believe in the power of the market to lead us to
| paradise.  If the market had this power would Lisp be the fringe language
| it is?  Would Microsoft be the most successful software company?

  this is so mind-bogglingly over-simplified an attitude that I can't begin
  to answer it, but Microsoft has succeeded because it moved technical
  issues into _irrelevant_ positions.  people do _not_ buy Microsoft's
  shitware because they want quality, robustness, investment protection, or
  the like, they buy it out of fear of not being able to keep up with the
  competitors for their manpower and with companies they exchange files
  with.  Microsoft did, however, offer something of relevance a good number
  of years ago: they gave the suits a computer on their own desk that the
  computer people didn't control.  _that_ was the relevant criterion that
  propelled Microsoft into their leading role in the minds of the people
  who decide life or death in business: the suits.  like evolution, any
  irrelevant property can mutate without control, and some day it might
  prove to be relevant once sufficiently advanced.

  I read Kent Pitman's incessant argumentation for the "market" to be a
  strong voice to let the vendors know that certain issues are _relevant_
  to their customers, because the market only decides what's relevant, the
  irrelevant is taken for granted, and can be _anything_ that doesn't get
  relevant one way or another.  Kent's trying to influence that, and lots
  of people are trying to let people know what kind of irrelevant issues
  caused them to purchase virus distribution vehicles and security holes
  from Microsoft along with the relevant ego-stroking abilities for suits.