is Ben Rudgers

Remarks: Epigram 7

This is part of a writing exercise around Alan Perlis‘s Epigrams in Programming.

It is easier to write an incorrect program than to understand a correct one.

The first week of my first semester as a philosophy major, I spent 80 minutes reading Descartes Meditations. I had progressed six pages. Understanding is generally hard work. When the material is unfamiliar progress is slow.

It’s easier to do a lot of things incorrectly.

Dick Cavett wrote for Groucho Marx.  “Well, you certainly could have fooled me” is the correct punchline. Every other variation is wrong. Groucho expected the syllables to be perfect. Writing a sitcom is easier – make it funny enough to work with a laugh track.  Vaudevillians like Groucho spent decades telling the same joke day after day until the timing was perfect. But try as you might, you can’t put that on TV and get people to watch.

Correct varies. There is always a context.

What can be measured easily gets done. Writing lines of code is easy to measure. Developing an understanding of another person’s program is not. There is friction against sitting and thinking. The keyboard makes a noise which some will take for progress. My friend, Mike the Chemist, had a pithy saying in the last of his undergraduate years. “Six hours in the lab will save you an hour in the library.”