Extending human ability

I don’t always enjoy praise, but it’s really great when commentators see through the cold reality of live coding or algorave and get at the promise that motivates what we’re doing.

Here’s a comment by a reddit user called Tekmo from a few months back, which I think is about the promise of a more embodied approach to the practice of programming:

I think the entire premise of this project is really brilliant. Right now it’s probably not immediately inspiring because it takes a minute or so to switch between patterns for an average user, but imagine somebody getting REALLY good at improving on this, with their own custom library of one or two-letter function names and performing by constantly improvising patterns every few seconds while programming at lightning speed.

But the real reason I think this is brilliant is because this is sort of what I always imagined programming was about: extending human ability. I feel like the super-heroes of the future will be programmers that command an impressive array of remote machinery as if it were an extension of their own body.

Here’s an excerpt from a nice blog post by DuBose Cole which to me hints at a cultural tipping point when more people start programming:

Events like Algorave highlight that by making more people creators through programming, we don’t just get new technical creations, but social and cultural ones as well. Algorave features electronic music created by algorithms programmed on the fly for a crowd. Revellers seem to attend due to either an interest in how the music is created, a particular love of electronic music, or just to have a party. An idea like Algorave takes the image of coding as a solitary experience and moves it forward, making the programmer a collaborative and immediate creator, as well as bit of a rock star.

What the idea highlights however, is that learning to create with code is less about the skill itself and more about what you do with it. Pushing coding literacy is only the beginning. Coders are creating an ever expanding culture of creation, which anyone with a basic appreciation or skill for programming can join in with. The increasing simplicity with which people can learn coding has not only changed who can create, but also the scope of what’s being created.

Brilliant stuff.

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