SICP Book Club: 4.2 - 4.4 (How Do Languages Expand Our Mind?)

A friend in Pittsburgh named Robbie turned me on to SICP in the first place. He would joke that he was into hipster languages. You know, Golang, Rust - nevermind, you've probably never heard of them. When we touched on functional programming in Pitt's computer science club, we joked that experimenting with FP would turn you into a programming hipster.

But let's be honest. Functional programming is way too mainstream to be hipster. "Uncool" languages like C++ and Java have been adding in functional features for years now. Of course, throwing in lamdas can't make Java functional, just like throwing in banjo (or removing banjo, as it were) can't make Mumford & Sons an interesting band.

Nevertheless, we programming hipsters must find higher, more authentic ground before the rising tide of enterprise software drowns us. As our real-world bretheren move from Williamsburg to Bushwick, from Berlin to Leipzig, from Wicker Park to Logan Square, programming hipsters adopt Clojure, Scala, Elixir, Rust.

But you know what's even cooler than new stuff? Old stuff, old programming paradigms. Reading through the back end of chapter four of SICP (cdr Chapter-4) is like looking through your Dad's attic and discovering that his collection of striped sweaters and Springsteen records is much cooler than your own wardrobe and music collection. As you rifle through Uncle Abelson and Uncle Sussman's old storage unit, you see such treasures as logic programming, nondeterministic programming, and lazy evaluation. "Inconceivable," you think. They sell this at Urban Outfitters for $90 a piece! But here it is, all for me! (In this analogy, Urban Outfitters is... Hacker News? Don't think so hard.)

So you strike out into the world transformed, your arms tattooed with sleeves of infinite delayed streams. You throw open the doors of the nearest startup and climb onto the ping-pong table during free beer and ecstasy hour. "Hello, I am a master Prolog programmer. I know you've been waiting for me. Don't worry, I'm willing to start for as little as $150,000, with equity of course." They offer you some stickers while someone in the corner sends a Slack DM to the security guard.

You find the door yourself. They don't know true art. I bet they mostly use C preprocessor macros. That's ok, you tell yourself. The real scene is underground. You attend seedy meetups under bridges, everyone huddled around a laptop on top of a construction cone to see the slides. Someone offers you a hit of the Actor pattern. You take it. You're in deep.

Your own family doesn't know how to talk to you at Thanksgiving. That's ok. It takes a true outsider to create something new. I'm glad I'm not one of them, you say, with their white picket fences, organic produce, and deep inheritance trees. I am an artist.