Thursday assorted links

by on June 15, 2017 at 3:46 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 4:05 am

#5 – Completely idiotic. Why not also teach plumbing and carpentry too? At least those skills are actually useful. “Learning to Code” is someting only flogged by People like Tyler Cowen who have absolutely zero knowledge of software developement.

2 ChrisA June 15, 2017 at 4:09 am

The best use of kindergarten schools would be to learn languages. We know for sure that small kids can effortlessly pick up languages, even the most dumb of the Chinese learn Chinese. And we also know that learning languages when you are older is almost impossible for most people. So the no-brainer would be to have all elementary schools immersive in at least one additional language if not two. And then free up all the useless time spent learning languages in secondary education for learning useful things like programming.

3 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 4:11 am

“learning useful things like programming” not a useful thing to know, that was my point.

4 Chad June 15, 2017 at 4:17 am

All I can say is the time I spent in kindergarten learning to program by punching holes in cards really paid off in my career as an electoral fraud criminal.

5 Ray Lopez June 15, 2017 at 4:31 am

An electoral fraud criminal you say? I hope not a hanging chad!

6 Jan June 15, 2017 at 8:37 am

Hey, you were just hanging out.

7 y81 June 15, 2017 at 9:01 am

Same here–every day my skills as a Fortran programmer are used in my career as a real estate lawyer.

8 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 6:47 am

I’ve always wondered about children learning languages faster. I mean, we don’t often see adults learning to speak a foreign language at native level, but I wonder if that is just because adults generally don’t give it enough effort. Children are taught their native language by essentially having one or more private teachers following them all day for ten years and slowly teaching them through example. Children are also more willing to just babble and generally play with the language than adults are. I’m aware of the theories of periods in the childhood during which children are naturally more inclined to learn certain things, but I wonder if they are true. I mean, has anyone ever tried teaching an adult a foreign language with same kind of dedication and perseverance as children are taught their native language?

9 tjamesjones June 15, 2017 at 6:57 am

yes good points. Is it even possible to ever really establish what is true, here? As you say, it takes kids years to learn languages.

10 ChrisA June 15, 2017 at 8:09 am

Well whether or not there is a “critical period” after which you can learn new languages, the fact is most people do not. And in fact most language teaching in high school is a total waste of time of the teenagers. Almost no-one comes out with any kind of fluency and any ability gained is quickly lost.

I have personally seen young children (pre-teen) go into a foreign school not knowing a word of language, and without any special teaching or help, in about 3 months be speaking fairly fluently. So instead of wasting time in high school, do it the easy way and get fluency as small child, all they will be wasting is time with lego.

11 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 10:22 am

I learned German in about 8-12 months in my mid 20s. Not to native speaker level of course (not even close) but pretty functional and able to generally work in the language. I’m pretty lazy about learning it though and didn’t put in anywhere near the effort I could in terms of expanding vocabulary.

12 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I’m a pretty smart guy, but I took 3 years of high school German and visited Germany about 10 years later with no language practice in between and found my German language knowledge very helpful. I remembered a lot of vocab. I couldn’t have a conversation or anything, but as a tourist it was much more pleasant than being in a country where I have no language knowledge and picked up a few phrases on the Internet to help get along. I later got into some German music and that German language experience made it much easier for me to understand and enjoy the music.

13 anders June 15, 2017 at 8:11 am

As I have witnessed my nephew’s language develop (he is now 5) I have been thinking the same. It’s an incredibly slow process. One word here, one idiom there, and grammatical rules that take years from first use to mastery.

14 Art Deco June 15, 2017 at 9:53 am


15 spencer June 15, 2017 at 11:39 am

The US Army language school comes pretty close with full time emergence in language training that produces fairly fluent foreign language speakers in a couple of years.

16 mpowell June 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Which is a pretty strong argument against kids being so much better at it. I think the most you can say about young kids is that they are pretty useless for learning most things (mathematics or software, for example), while language is something they actually can learn so might as well teach them that.

17 Thomas June 15, 2017 at 5:08 pm

“Which is a pretty strong argument against kids being so much better at it.”

Military language schools are very selective, unlike childbirth.

18 Hazel Meade June 15, 2017 at 9:04 am

I agree that teaching second languages would be great. However, how much opportunity are kids going to get to speak them outside of class? People in Europe have ample opportunities to travel a short distance to meet people who speak other languages. It’s not so easy in the US, with the exception of Spanish in some parts.

19 Slocum June 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

It would need to be immersion with some subjects actually taught in the second language. Having a language teacher come in a few times a week for an hour is pretty much useless (we had that were I went to elementary school in the 70s. I don’t think anybody picked up anybody at all ended up with any durable Spanish from it). And given the lack of bilingualism among the U.S. teaching corps, I do not see any chance of immersion instruction happening on a wide basis. As for adults learning a foreign language–I’d argue that they do it much faster, though they rarely achieve accent-free native speech. But so what? I know quite a few people who’ve acquired high-levels of fluency as adults. No, they couldn’t be spies–their accents would give them away, but they’re completely functional.

20 peri June 15, 2017 at 11:51 am

I agree. The mothers used to set so much store by that hour a week of Spanish for the elementary school kids: Hola! Rojo!

Spanish-immersion preschool is now popular* – even among our many Asian newcomers, eager to do whatever is the going thing. There is no connection between this and supervising a Mexican construction crew 30 years later. I hear plenty of Anglo bubbas speaking fair Spanish, picked up on the job. Spanish will be the dominant language here eventually, and sink-or-swim will be a great teacher.

*I remember Caitlin Flanagan having a little fun with California parents, who in service of the bilingual goal (multiculturalism too was then in vogue, before it was revealed to be a form of imperialism), paid to send their kids to a “Spanish-only” private school – while eschewing the local public school for its 86% Hispanic demographics.

21 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Is there any contradiction between those two facts? Do they not want their children to visit Spain?

22 peri June 15, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Speaking English is not a requirement for living in the United States – many people live here most of their lives without picking it up – so I’m not sure why one would need Spanish to spend a week’s holiday in Spain. But I haven’t been to Spain, and perhaps the tourists there must converse in Spanish.

23 GoneWithTheWind June 15, 2017 at 10:12 am

Learning languages is one of those things that sounds like a good idea but just doesn’t work out. Without the opportunity to use that language it is quickly forgotten and rarely learned in a way that is useful. Certainly a number of people who know two or more languages will disagree based on their own experience but the reality is that 10 years after taking Spanish or French in high school the individual couldn’t formulate a single sentence in that language. Language in K-12 is more about a full employment program for language teachers than it is about education.

24 sadf June 15, 2017 at 10:37 am

Which language? “Language policy” is almost inherently going to be one of the most politicized subjects in schools so you need to include that in your cost benefit analysis (at least if you’re dealing with a language people don’t consider “value neutral” such as Latin or Chinese) .

25 msgkings June 15, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Programming languages ARE languages. So young children should have an easier time picking them up than older kids, which is probably Canada’s point.

26 spandrell June 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm

No they’re not. Natural language is not a set of codes.

27 Axa June 15, 2017 at 5:10 am

JAMRC: can you ellaborate on why is it idiotic? a) The skill is not useful, b) this skill is only acquired by self-learning.

The best coders of our generation of course never took a damned single course. However, that doesn’t mean the skill is not possible to teach. It is possible that at the same time good people does not need any course and that the skill is teachable.

Looking at my colleagues, I understand why the view of coding as an unteachable skill is so popular. They got the skill out of formal education and their sense of self.worth depends on mastering something other people ignores. Coding at school is unpopular among this crowd because it makes them less “special”.

28 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 5:26 am

No I mean like why the hype about wanting People to even “learn to Code”? Being a programmer isn’t very lucrative actually, companies don’t want People who “know how to code” they generally only want people who live and breath programming and have a giant repository on GitHub. I generally see it as hype and a waste of time and money. Policy makers I guess are getting desparate about what people are going to do for well-paying work in the future. Well the answer is definietly not computer programming.

Yeah those people you mention are not special. The real Jobs, the high Prestige ones will be and always will remain the same – People working in professions requiring advanced or professional degrees from hard-to-get-accepted-into programs. People whose job it is to deal with money and strategies for making more money (sales, banking, law) or medicine. Not guys making crappy websites and apps (outside of the miniscule percentage who sell their startup for big cash)

29 Guy Makiavelli June 15, 2017 at 6:08 am

Coders are the contemporary economy’s equivalent of factory workers or coal miners.

Companies need lots of coders but would love to be able to have fewer of them or to outsource.

Obviously coders need to be smart, have a logical orientation, be able to sit at their desks for long hours. But the most important qualification for a coder is manageability.

Hence the emergence of “agile” development which is designed around the notion of eager-to-please interchangeable generalist coders working for managers and business people who don’t understand what they are doing and need to change priorities all the time.

Coders are commodities like all knowledge workers. Being able to play ball in the managerial class is what pays in today’s economy.

30 Butler T. Reynolds June 15, 2017 at 7:40 am

Ha! Absolutely right on the “agile” nonsense.

Perhaps in some limited circumstances some programmers have developed an effective system. As you suggest, in most scenarios agile is a way for non-programmers to not have to think deeply or at any length about the systems being developed.

31 Gil June 15, 2017 at 8:03 am

This sure doesn’t match my experience. I have been a coder for 30 years (or more actually, I started doing commercial software development in high school). I have been very well paid and I have never worked at or sold a startup. I am in the managerial class.

Sure, there are commodity coders and not very interesting projects, but they are still well paid.

The idea that coding is useless is, to use the OP phrase, completely idiotic. Coders achieved massive productivity gains in many industries including many non-computer industries. Given recent breakthroughs in AI, it seems we are on the cusp of another productivity revolution. AI doesn’t replace coders, it requires coders.

Coding, like math, is a general purpose tool. Learning coding sharpens the mind, even if you don’t actually write any code as an adult. Coding is engineering.

Your notions of agile development seem to be just made up. You could look it up on wikipedia, but honestly you probably would not understand because you don’t have software development experience.

And finally, what you are missing is that one way to “play ball in the managerial class” is to develop technical knowledge and skill, like coding. It isn’t like some dork with a MBA can effectively manage a complex technology project. Coders are almost entirely managed by other coders and this extends into the executive suite.

32 prior_test2 June 15, 2017 at 8:08 am

‘It isn’t like some dork with a MBA can effectively manage a complex technology project.’

No, they cannot, but it is often amazing how many opportunities they get. Though on the customer side, and only rarely on the software house side.

33 Hazel Meade June 15, 2017 at 9:01 am

I’m with Gil on this.
Coding ability is in high demand in every technical field around. People who exclusively code are in high demand as well, but someone in just about ANY STEM profession can benefit from knowing how to code. Even a surgeon could probably take his career a step up by making code improvements to computerized surgical tools. The idea that coders are poorly paid or don’t have advancement opportunity is just crazy.

What amazes me, really, is people who still think that being in the right social class and getting an MBA is a sure path to being a highly paid executive. That group of people is a dying breed. It’s not 1964 and Mad Men anymore. You can’t get a job as an ad executive just by marrying into the right family.

34 y81 June 15, 2017 at 9:05 am

Obviously, there are people who make a good living coding, but there are also people who make good livings as lawyers, doctors, financial analysts, etc. That doesn’t mean we should teach law or medicine or finance in elementary school. What we need to teach is how to write, speak, and analyze mathematically. If you put all that together, you might even learn what is more and most of all important, how to think.

35 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 9:29 am

“Even a surgeon could probably take his career a step up by making code improvements to computerized surgical tools. ”

No, they couldn’t don’t be obtuse.

“People who exclusively code are in high demand as well”

Yes…in some cases this is true but “learning to code” does not mean you will have a passion for it and do it exclusively – which is what the employers look for.

“Coding ability is in high demand in every technical field around”

Yeah, but anyone can learn the basic stuff in University or on their own. To make it some knd of general education requirement is moronic.

36 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 9:33 am

“What amazes me, really, is people who still think that being in the right social class and getting an MBA is a sure path to being a highly paid executive. ”

Because it largely is. Sure there are other ways but those other ways are MUCH more difficult and usually require say a relatively higher IQ to compensate for not having the right background. You need to be significantly better than the MBA guy to get the same distance without the MBA or social class background.

37 Alt Lite June 15, 2017 at 9:46 am

This programmer(I hate the word “coder”) says +1 to Guy Makiavelli, he gets it. The problem with programming is it’s a high paid but low status occupation. Thus, there’s pressure to automate, outsource, or replace programmers with immigrants which does not exist for, say, lawyers. The reason is that lawyers are a high-status occupation, companies don’t balk at paying them high salaries in the way they balk at giving high salaries to programmers.

“Coders are almost entirely managed by other coders and this extends into the executive suite.”

Patently false. I doubt this guy is even a programmer.

“What amazes me, really, is people who still think that being in the right social class and getting an MBA is a sure path to being a highly paid executive.”

Lots of dumb people think that, thus the large number of graduates shocked to find that their State U MBA is hardly any more valuable than a State U degree in the liberal arts. The key is to get into a good school.

“That group of people is a dying breed. It’s not 1964 and Mad Men anymore. You can’t get a job as an ad executive just by marrying into the right family.”

If your point is the business class is doing worse now than it was in 1964, you’re delusional. They are doing much better, taking home a much larger share of the nation’s wealth. The MBA graduate from State U is screwed, but the Mad Men Class* doesn’t care about him and doesn’t see him as part of their class.

*Disregarding it’s status as Jewish propaganda.

38 Guy Makiavelli June 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

“coding ability is in high demand”

Indeed. But coders are at the bottom of the corporate totem pole and will be tossed out as soon as it is possible to replace them with someone cheaper.

Moreover, even when suitable coders are hard to find, a dev manager is still going to insist on hiring people with high manageability (as this is more important than coding abilities), and “cultural fit”.

Bottom line is that coding is demanding, low prestige work that you will be tossed out long before your retirement.

39 Art Deco June 15, 2017 at 10:08 am

Because it largely is.

No, it is not. Only a modest minority of entry-level managers ever make it to top management, and more than a few of them have very unremarkable backgrounds. The sort of brobingnagian compensation you read about is the preserve of a contextually tiny population. The median cash compensation for the chief executive of an incorporated enterprise is just shy of $200,000 per year.

40 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 10:13 am

No programmer is going to top management unless they founded the company. As the other commenter mentioned, the MBA from the State U is basically worthless – yeah of course it is, I wouldn’t even think otherwise, I simply assume we are discussing an MBA graduate from a top 10 program (world wide). I’m sure if you peak behind the history of most successful executives you will see a fairly privledge class background and an MBA from a top tier school not years spent as a programmer on their resume. I don’t know why you use median CEO pay to mean anything, there are tonnes of rinky-dink companies out there Art, no one is denying that. Sure it’s tough to climb the greasy pole but if you decided to go to work as a programmer – well… you aren’t even in the fucking game.

41 Gil June 15, 2017 at 10:39 am

‘“Coders are almost entirely managed by other coders and this extends into the executive suite.”
Patently false. I doubt this guy is even a programmer.’

‘No programmer is going to top management unless they founded the company.’

I am a programmer.

I picked a random old, classic company, Ford, and it took me all of 2 minutes to find a programmer in top management.

“He began his career at Ford in 1987 in systems programming for parts and service warranty….Lemmer, born in 1965, earned a bachelor’s degree in Math and Computer Science from Lawrence Technological University.”

42 A Definite Beta Guy June 15, 2017 at 11:21 am

“Coders are commodities like all knowledge workers” – JAMRC is accurate, coders are just generic knowledge workers. Plenty of knowledge workers command high salaries and are “in demand,” yet are still basically commodity labor.
Also, the field “IT” is more expansive than just “coder.” Plenty of people who are just fetching the computer mouse for the highly-paid, in-demand accountant, both of who are just numbers to the stockholders.

43 Slocum June 15, 2017 at 11:23 am

” Thus, there’s pressure to automate, outsource, or replace programmers with immigrants which does not exist for, say, lawyers. The reason is that lawyers are a high-status occupation, companies don’t balk at paying them high salaries in the way they balk at giving high salaries to programmers.”

Eh, no. Lawyers are under a great deal of pressure from automation, for example:

The hiring situation for new law grads is dismal. As a result, the number of applicants is down sharply, law schools are closing, and LSAT scores and bar exam pass rates are dropping as schools are forced to accept lower quality applicants to fill their classes.

44 Axa June 15, 2017 at 5:52 am

Basic knowledge of how computers work is needed for daily life with common devices. I’ve never been asked for help of how to build a table or fix a kitchen sink. In contrast, questions about computers/printers/phones are never ending.

“Learn to code” may be an aspirational name, but the need to successfully work with common devices is already there.

What I’ve seen about coding for children is teaching IFs and other operations by completing phrases. At least more useful than learning to write in cursive.

45 Alt Lite June 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

“The best coders of our generation of course never took a damned single course.”

Really? My experience is the opposite, except for those who majored in some other STEM field,(and many of these did a basic programming course) “self taught” programmers are mediocre.

46 Alain June 15, 2017 at 1:40 pm

> ‘Self taught’ programmers are mediocre.

Depends upon the metric, but on some of them this is spot on.

47 MGMT June 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

When you look at the income from an “account manager” or an “account director” or an “engagement manager” or a “VP account services” the dollar salary is one thing. That bonuses, travel, meals, entertainment, aren’t included in that dollar amount is another thing, also.

48 Derek Jones June 15, 2017 at 6:37 am

Yes, coding is not important. Learning to plan and solve problems is what counts, and coding is one way of teaching that:

Even in the ‘real ‘ world of software development, coding takes second place:

49 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 7:10 am

Why do we teach everyone how to read and write? Because society is structured in such a way that it’s almost impossible to live in it without having those skills. Why is society structured like this? Because it became advantageous to do so after the masses had first been taught how to read and write.

Can you see a parallel to programming here? I can really see the same story unfolding. Some tasks are just so much more efficient to carry out by writing a small python script than doing it by hand or using a made-for-idiots type of graphical software for it. Also making small customizations to software you use or writing scripts for software that supports such things is really handy. If people could be relied upon being able to these things, the logic of how we do anything in this world would be changed a lot.

50 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 7:43 am

And here’s the actual reality:

51 Right Wing House Music June 17, 2017 at 3:23 am

This is the response I’ve been looking for. If a bartender learned some basic Python programming skills in kindergarten, he could probably figure out how to program an Arduino to sync up with his smartphone and automatically pour beer when the customers request it.

There are a million ways that coding can be useful to the masses.

52 KWebb June 15, 2017 at 8:44 am

You don’t need to be a software engineer to receive benefits from being able to program/copy stuff from Stack Exchange.

There are tons of simple, repetitive tasks that could be eliminated with a half decent VBA macro. How many people out there spend large parts of their day manipulating an excel spreadsheet the exact same way day after day? Especially in not very tech savvy areas.

53 Neil June 15, 2017 at 9:40 am

….. That’s why you’re not in charge of things…

It is critically important to all children that wise government expert-bureaucrats determine what should be taught in compulsory schools & how it should be taught. There are thousands of subjects that could be taught to children & thousands of ways a child could use the most formative years of life — those choices can not be left to parents and their children — society must step in… to firmly direct them in the proper direction of education.

Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18.

54 NatashaRostova June 15, 2017 at 10:39 am

I don’t understand why you’re always so aggravated whenever anyone discusses coding…

My experience with coding, working at tech companies, pay, and prestige, could not possible be more different from how you see the field. I can combine my skills with software development, economics, machine learning, and almost anything else that’s new and exciting. The amount of new projects and innovations that I have access to because I can code and understand how coding works is incredible.

It’s also nice making a ridiculous amount of money for fun low stress work. It’s a structured and disciplined method of inquiry and thought, and teaching code has no reason to differ from teaching math or history. In fact, coding is just a special case of discrete math, and algorithms are more fundamental to human interactions with the world than most other things.

55 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 10:40 am

I think that you are a bot sent by some HR recruitment company.

56 Guy Makiavelli June 15, 2017 at 10:58 am

I think you are a phd student at Stanford who does some work at Google X during the summers.

My advice (assuming you don’t end up in academia) is to consider whether you have a future in sales/marketing/management. If the answer is no, then assume that you will either retire or become a contractor by age 45 and manage your finances accordingly.

57 mpowell June 15, 2017 at 12:28 pm

While this perspective is not entirely wrong, there are plenty of older line level employees in tech. But compensation will cap out at a much lower level if you can’t progress into management. You might get outsourced at some point, but if you are manageable and competent it should be easy to find a 6-figure salary working 40hrs/week. The reference point for JAMRC is that 100K is chump change, but it is still a lot better than the median American earner, so this perspective has some serious flaws. Moving up in management is hard whether you are good at coding or not. So few people succeed at the upper management track path, I’m not sure you can meaningfully compare people w/ and w/o coding skills. I would say non-technical people in upper management have extraordinary skills in other regards – it doesn’t tell me learning to code is a waste of time.

58 Ricardo June 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Natasha and I have had similar experiences. More than once I have thought “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.” Easy money.

However, before I went to work for Uncle Sam, I did feel a lot of pressure to learn new things mainly just for the sake of learning them, in order to remain viable in the market. Not long ago, I was in a meeting where someone made a disparaging reference to Java Struts as ridiculously outdated. It wasn’t so long ago that I was feeling insecure about not knowing Struts, because you couldn’t get hired without it!

Every kid has to learn math in school — at least algebra — but most kids are just not very good at math, and most emerge from high school with a complete inability to solve even the most basic problem. The fraction of kids that can code is smaller than the fraction that can do algebra.

Yet… as TC says, most people have a lot of slack in their lives. So while the benefit of teaching coding in elementary school is near zero, the cost may be even closer to zero….

59 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Yet… as TC says, most people have a lot of slack in their lives. So while the benefit of teaching coding in elementary school is near zero, the cost may be even closer to Zero

But why bother it will all just be forgotten. Like I’ve said elsewhere, it’s an alright enough job for people who really love it. But loving it IS basically a pre-requisit for being a programmer. No one really expects an actuary or accountant or lawyer or many other professionals to be deeply passionate about their job to the point where they read about it constantly, hang out on websites deveoted to it, and constantly work on side projects in their spare time but all of this is a pre-req to event a typical career in programming. You need to keep your skills up-to-date and chase every new fad in the proramming world. For the medicore pay received in comparision to other professional type Jobs they amount of dedication to your work that is demanded is really unappealing to most sensible people.

60 Milo Fan June 15, 2017 at 2:09 pm

I think the big variable is whether you work for a tech company or in a tech role in a non tech company. It’s in the latter where the low status of the field starts to affect you.

61 Rimfax June 15, 2017 at 6:43 pm

As the research on cursive handwriting has shown, a myopic focus on the vocational value of lessons actually undermines the vocational equity produced in a learning cohort. In other words, by only teaching the skills that would be the most broadly useful for a group of job seekers, we actually produce a group of less qualified job seekers.

The hypothesis that attempts to describe this observation is that certain “useless” skills somehow make the more “useful” skills easier to learn more deeply and constructively. Computer programming seems like a superb candidate for the kind of foundational (broadly) “useless” skills that would help job seekers learn other skills yielding greater efficiency and greater equity.

62 Anonymous June 17, 2017 at 9:15 am

Much ado about nothing, as “and other digital skills” reduces this to what every school already does.

Even if they wanted to start “programming” early (probably just graphical play) no need for controversy. Just run a randomized trial.

63 Ray Lopez June 15, 2017 at 4:30 am

#4 – was very good, comparing Trump to the late Roman Republic rulers, movers and shakers. Last sentence is good: “But when the full story of our era is written, I would bet on Trump being remembered more like a Crassus than like a Caesar — as an important but not decisive player in our march toward an ever-more-imperial executive, notable for his greed and pride and folly, but eclipsed by even more dangerous figures yet to come”

64 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 5:02 am

Despite Ross’ complaints I consider him and people like him largely responsible for whatever presumed “mess” that we’re in.

65 Rich Berger June 15, 2017 at 6:21 am

He’s just a reflection of Bubble Culture, where the bien pissants go to get their beliefs confirmed.

66 Art Deco June 15, 2017 at 10:03 am

Despite Ross’ complaints I consider him and people like him largely responsible for whatever presumed “mess” that we’re in.

He writes topical commentary. He has no authority over public policy. He has no opportunity for remora-like income appropriation (think Hunter Biden). He directs the course of no private enterprise. He does not have tenure. He cannot file a lawsuit. He might or might not employ a research assistant. He isn’t a must-read on the level of Walter Lippmann ca. 1940 or George Will, ca. 1985. He isn’t an arrant fool (like, say, Barbara Ehrenreich). How can he possibly be responsible for the ‘mess’ we’re in? (Any more than my vascular surgeon is)?

As for ‘people like him’, his wife is another journalist, his mother sells real estate, and his father is a provincial mid-law attorney. What did they ever do that made a mess?

67 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 10:05 am

He isn’t an arrant fool (like, say, Barbara Ehrenreich).

Oh but he is.

68 Art Deco June 15, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Oh but he is.

That’s not something you have the tools to recognize.

69 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 12:40 pm

That’s not something you have the tools to recognize.

Oh but it is.

70 Brian Donohue June 15, 2017 at 10:16 am

+ 1 to Art.

And +1 to Ray too.

And even +1 to JAMRC, long-time troll who is now choosing to engage.

71 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 10:23 am

I still troll but under different names

72 Art Deco June 15, 2017 at 12:37 pm

His posts were better when they were parodies.

73 Art Deco June 15, 2017 at 12:41 pm

And my Posts are better when I’m talking about my cuck fetish! WINK!

74 Dick the Butcher June 15, 2017 at 8:11 am

It’s all good if you believe the liberal bullshit.

To the rest of us, the “:Theater in the Park” incitement to violence is wrong on so many levels. Four hundred years from now, a proto-Shakespeare would cast tea party/deplorables acting to save the Constitution/Republic by righteously stabbing Obama or Hillary (if she had won).

The historical Crassus was one of three (with Pompey and Caesar) in the First Triumverate in the steady subversion of the Roman Republic into totalitarianism – that now is happening to America. Crassus (a close ally of Caesar, Pompey was the friction point) was made governor of the province in Syria and was killed in a disastrous campaign against the Parthian Empire, a major enemy. If Crassus had lived, maybe Caesar would not have “crossed the Rubicon.”

“more dangerous figures yet to come” Who Cruz, Rubio, Biden, Hillary, Warren, Sanders, Cuomo?

Anyhow, the American transformation (probably began 180 years ago with Jackson) from republic to totalitarianism continues apace.

75 msgkings June 15, 2017 at 12:26 pm

LOL no

76 rayward June 15, 2017 at 6:36 am

4. While Douthat and America must borrow an ancient culture from far away Rome as a guide to future travails, the Chinese have their own history and ancient culture as a guide to future greatness. As I read the review of these two new books about China and the Thucydides trap, I could not help but consider China’s president’s recent visit to Mar-a-Lago. What must Xi Jinping have thought of the aging and overweight former playboy and his wealthy friends at this opulent playground for an aging and overweight world power. Eating chocolate cake while discussing the bombing of some far off desert wasteland with his host. I don’t believe Xi Jinping was either impressed or intimidated; instead, he must have been reassured that it is indeed China’s turn as the world’s superpower.

77 Gabe Athouse June 15, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Wanna bet? Write me in your will and I’ll right you in mine. It doesn’t matter how old you are, China will not the next world superpower in our lifetimes.

78 rayward June 15, 2017 at 7:27 am

2. Cowen’s 2015 blog post on Singapore has so far stood the test of time. And so has my comment to it. Singapore is the contemporary version of the Italian city-states during the Renaissance such as Venice, the birthplace of banking. While the Italian city-states eventually lost their preeminence in banking to the European nations to the north including Germany, Singapore’s preeminence (like Cowen’s 2015 blog post) is likely to withstand the test of time. Why? Because Singapore has chosen to stake its future on China (by investing much of its sovereign funds in China and connecting Singapore to China as part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative); and China’s future looks very promising.

79 The Engineer June 15, 2017 at 8:10 am

Over my academic career, in the ’80’s and ’90’s, I learned to “code” (we called it programming back then) in the following languages:

In elementary school: Apple Basic, Timex Sinclair Basic, Logo (remember that?!?)
In High School: MS Quickbasic
In College: Fortran

Do you see the problem here?

80 KWebb June 15, 2017 at 9:45 am

I haven’t been around as long, and I’m not a software developer, but I feel like all the languages have been settling towards a VB, C variant, and Java dominance with other languages as for specific purposes.

Maybe I’m just not paying attention.

81 MOFO June 15, 2017 at 9:49 am

Thats just because your school sucks. I learned LISP/SCHEME and have been using it ever since.

82 y81 June 15, 2017 at 9:55 am

I went to Exeter and took computer science at Northwestern, which are not sucky schools. We learned Fortran. Admittedly, this was during the 70s.

83 Alan Goldhammer June 15, 2017 at 10:09 am

Back in the day there was only Fortran for STEM applications (late 1960s) which I learned. Basic came along and was easy to implement. While a post-doc, we had a PDP-11 minicomputer with both a Fortran and Basic compiler but to optimize anything required a knowledge of machine language which nobody in the lab had. We had to bring someone in from the CS department to do that. I later taught myself C and Java but C++ was always a bit mystical to me. Today most everything I need to do uses Excel (home budgets, portfolio tracking, stock analysis). Don’t underestimate that productivity that spreadsheets have brought about (I even remember Visicalc).

84 Gil June 15, 2017 at 10:10 am

There is no problem here, you are missing the the forest for the trees.

With natural languages, learning Spanish isn’t very helpful for learning Chinese. Programming languages are more or less all the same; the syntax isn’t important or interesting, it is the underlying concepts. It is about problem solving, not where the semicolon goes.

The kindergartners would probably learn scratch, which you may not even recognize as a programming language. Nobody uses scratch for commercial applications, but it is great for teaching the underlying concepts which can then be applied to any future programming language or approach that happens to come along.

Technology will change radically in the future, and the best way to prepare for that future is learning current technology.

85 A Definite Beta Guy June 15, 2017 at 10:37 am

What specific concepts are you trying to teach? Because there’s a big difference between language and programming, and the difference is that I can infer what you are saying even if you get the specifics slightly wrong, which the computer cannot do.

“You know that thing in your backyard where you bounce up and down?”
Person: You mean a trampoline
Program: Beep boop I blow up now.

Then you spend hours and hours and hours debugging, and then you’re fired because you didn’t do any of your actual, real work while debugging your program.

I don’t see how native, absolutely perfect fluency isn’t a MUCH bigger issue in programming than it is natural language.

86 KWebb June 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

Assigning values to variables
Manipulating variables
If/If Else statements
While loops
For loops
Calling functions
Writing functions

If someone can’t figure out how to google ‘Python while loop’ they are probably a lost cause.

87 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 10:39 am

There are tonnes of concepts that are programming language specific or at least are specific to certain groups of programming languages and are not learned through generic toys like Scratch.

Look just get off it, Kids should aspire to be serious professionals not fucking joke programmers.

88 Gil June 15, 2017 at 11:53 am

Yes, there are an infinite amount of concepts in programming (as in any field), and a lot of those can’t be learned in scratch.

But so what, we are talking about kindergarten here. Gotta start somewhere. The fundamental concepts learned in scratch can be readily applied to any programming language*.

Learning scratch is a good kindergarten-level step toward on the way to becoming a serious professional. Maybe you have a better “first lesson in coding” in mind?

*Except maybe the really weird ones, but those aren’t very important and it is beyond the scope of this discussion.

89 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 12:21 pm

I mean if we are talking about Kindergarten, making sure the kids learn how to play sports and develop active and athletic Habits will help them, particularly young boys, to be far far more successful in most aspects in life than encouraging them to sit around in front of a computer screen programming will. So now we don’t have to start anywhere with programming.

90 Alan M June 15, 2017 at 12:40 pm

And they can learn those in later years once they know the basics. What’s your point? Right now its common for seniors in high school to not even understand what a for-loop is, or even basic if-then statements. Teach young kids these basic building blocks and they can springboard from there to more advanced concepts as necessary. That’s better than what we have now, which is basically just nerds in high school picking up programming as a hobby, or if you’re lucky you go to a rich suburban school that teaches some beginner C or Java as an elective.

91 Just Another MR Commentor June 15, 2017 at 12:55 pm

” if you’re lucky you go to a rich suburban school that teaches some beginner C or Java as an elective.” – lucky enough? Probably should just focus on aiming to get into a top school (including doing the appropriate extracirriculars) and onto Wall St./Consulting type work and not bothering with shit like learning C in highschool.

In order to get into the software industry These days you Need to have masters not only several languages but also tonnes of APIs and libraries, Frameworks, etc. before you can even get an entry level job. This is not a “career” which can be prepared for by teaching the Basics or even “advanced” concepts – its really only a “Career” for People who are really, really passionate enough about it that they will spend hours of their own time learning every new API or whatever that Comes down the pipeline, developing the appropriate large Portfolio of Projects to impress at the interviews. For the mediocre renumeriate it just its a worthwhile field to go into unless you are truely interested. You can’t teach passion, hence there is no point teaching programming.

92 Alan M June 15, 2017 at 1:47 pm

I’m sorry, but I just wholly disagree with your assertions. I’m a Software Engineer myself at a rather large industry leader. Of the 60+ people in my department, I’m one of maybe 5 or so who have Masters degrees (and mine is in Finance –not even software related). I do nothing with programming in my free time. If you want to work for Intel in designing their next processor, sure. If you want to work for Facebook in one of their high profile departments, sure. But for the run-of-the-mill software development, a solid bachelor degree and the ability to display decent competency in something like Java is more than enough for a lucrative and long career in the field. You act like the only people in the field are superstar silicon valley all-stars and nobody else has a chance, which is blatantly false. There’s simply not enough labor supply to meet demand right now, so companies are having to take anyone they can.

93 A Definite Beta Guy June 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

My wife and I both took those elective computer classes. She took some comp sci class, I took an engineering class that required some BASIC programming. Both of those have helped precisely not at all in helping us perform any serious programming in any other capacity, because actual fluency and actual work is about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x times harder than just knowing what a For-Loop or If-Then is.

Teaching it earlier, to everyone, is the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet. JAMRC is right, might as well just have them learn carpentry, it’ll be more useful and more likely to stick. Everyone can build their own furniture, NO ONE needs to code (and basically no one does today!)

94 Todd K June 15, 2017 at 11:33 am

“Logo (remember that?!?)”

Of course I remember that! How could you forget a three week summer “programming” course where no real programming is taught? At least my “Aztec” playing skills improved as others were making their circles.

95 Rimfax June 15, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Yes, the problem is that you think that learning defunct languages was wasted time. It was not. I have learned dozens of programming languages. Each has contributed to my understanding of the overall skill and has yielded valuable metaphors for engaging a broad range of subjects in my life.

96 prior_test2 June 15, 2017 at 8:20 am

4. If only Douhat had read this review from Noah Millman first, from 5 years ago, when Delta had no problem funding a play that depicts the death of a Roman tyrant –

‘Which brings me to this production. Director Rob Melrose has set his Caesar at our precise historical moment, in Obama’s Washington, D.C. The capital is rocked by “Occupy Rome” protests. His Caesar (the suavely confident Bjorn DuPaty) is a tall, charismatic African-American politician; he doesn’t look or sound much like Obama (he more closely recalls Michael Jordan), but the audience is unquestionably going to read him as an Obama stand-in nonetheless, particularly when his opponents bear a marked resemblance to Eric Cantor (Sid Solomon’s snappy terrier Cassius) and Mitch McConnell (Kevin Orton’s cynical old pol Casca). Even Mark Antony is recognizable as a standard Democratic politician type, Clinton/Gore division.

This could all come off as very cheap and obvious, but it doesn’t for two reasons. First, because the rhetoric of the Tea Party opposition to Obama partakes of an intellectual tradition that self-consciously traces its lineage back to Brutus: republican as well as Republican, a tradition that includes both Jefferson Davis and Patrick Henry. What one thinks of that tradition as a whole, and what one thinks of the people who currently invoke it is another topic – but the people who invoke it do so for a reason. John Wilkes Booth, who had played Brutus, quoted the Roman assassin immediately after murdering the man he saw as the American Caesar. He did not choose his words idly.


In the end, if the first half of the play is to connect with a contemporary viewer on a visceral level, its ideas to have some actual impact, the warfare that dominates the second half of the production will have to be understood as a kind of rhetorical fantasy – a fantasy apparently shared by many who harken back to Brutus today. It might not be a bad idea to see that fantasy fully played out, but I can’t imagine what would do that successfully on the stage.

Perhaps Riddley Scott will make a movie?’

97 Alan Goldhammer June 15, 2017 at 10:13 am

Methinks everyone protests way too much. Look at all the censoring of Italian opera during the 19th century. Verdi had to set Ballo in Maschera in the American colonies because the actual regicide in Sweden was too contemporary. Updating settings of Shakespeare and lots of opera has been going on for decades now with very good effect.

98 Edward Burke June 15, 2017 at 9:15 am

#1 offers an inviting subject and a sound account, but the account as published would not have suffered from editing. Only had time to scan it but missed seeing allusion to A. C. Graham’s masterful survey Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China, as well as Graham’s own foray into philosophy, Reason and Spontaneity. (Graham’s translation of more than three-quarters of the Zhuangzi remains useful, too, for the copious notes and annotations.)

99 Butler T. Reynolds June 15, 2017 at 9:53 am

#5 – I used to think that this was a good idea.

Today I think that teaching everyone to program is a waste of time. The motivation for schools to do it is coming from the wrong place: “The government also wants the program to encourage more young women and indigenous children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

In other words, [some] white males are doing well writing software. Therefore, if we get girls and indigenous children to learn programming, we’ll see the same results.

Since there are a lot of white males who are falling through the cracks these days, why don’t we try to encourage them to become elementary school teachers or nurses? Women appear to be underrepresented as auto mechanics. Why aren’t we encouraging them to do that too? Whatever draws some males to computer programming is probably not that different from what draws others to work on cars.

My prediction is that all this effort to get girls and minorities to write programs will amount to very little. Computers don’t care about the gender or race of the people who program them. Contrary to the outrage you see in the press, white male programmers don’t care about the gender or race of other programmers in the office. (I can’t speak for all of the Indian programmers in the cubicle farm, but have a feeling that some of them find most everyone else of lower caste!)

The lower numbers of [some] minorities and females in computer programming is not because they’ve been barred entry or chased away from it. I’m not even so convinced that women are underrepresented in software. There might be fewer women working for .com startups, but that could be because they are more mature and don’t want to sleep under their desks and eat pizza all the time. In the larger organizations that I’ve programmed for, I’ve seen a good number of female programmers — often they’ve been my manager.

100 Kris June 15, 2017 at 11:19 am

I can’t speak for all of the Indian programmers in the cubicle farm, but have a feeling that some of them find most everyone else of lower caste!

I don’t know if you are speaking from personal experience or just decided to introduce caste when speaking about Indians, but it is curious nonetheless. I find this sort of association made by many Americans online, especially on alt-right forums. I guess it’s a projection of the way Americans think about race onto the Indian caste system.

The reality is that caste still exists in India, but it retains importance in one and only sphere: marriage. Anything and everything that is modern in India has been beneficial to traditional lower castes in India, in the sense of putting them on the same plane as everyone else. (And programming is nothing if not modern.) Any school or university that offers a modern education has a completely mixed population, and few students would know or care whether their fellow-students were from a “lower” caste. The same holds true, generally speaking, of the professional world. There is, of course, the issue of affirmative action, though. It does inspire strong resentment among many, because the way it’s implemented in India (through a system of hard quotas independent of merit, or even a baseline), and not because some people feel they are genetically superior to others (a common trope among the Western alt-right.)

Anyway, this was a big digression off of your comment, but I couldn’t let it pass.

101 Jeff R June 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm

If I understand basic economics, it tells us that specialization is bad because it drives up costs, so all workers should learn to perform any and all tasks that have economic value. Therefore, everyone should learn to code.

102 msgkings June 15, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Obviously you don’t understand basic economics then.

103 Jeff R June 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Maybe it’s you that doesn’t understand basic economics! Bet you didn’t think of that, did you?

104 msgkings June 15, 2017 at 12:53 pm

LOL touche

105 Anonymous June 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm


To understand this phenomenon, I recommend this article:

106 Donald Pretari June 15, 2017 at 11:01 am

#1…Very interesting. If anyone would like to try Mencius in the original, I can recommend Raymond Dawson’s A New Introduction To Classical Chinese. You begin to study by reading Mencius. It’s not nearly as hard as you might think, and the pleasure of reading even a few passages in Classical Chinese is worth it.

107 Thanatos Savehn June 15, 2017 at 11:10 am

#5 A few years ago somebody decided that statistical analysis of big data was the key to the future and so elementary school textbooks were revised and it began being taught at my kids’ school. And, apart from the definitions of mean, median and mode, they got it all predictably wrong. All the gross misunderstandings surrounding statistical inference were taught. My impression was that somebody had decided that in the future there’d be a big market for people who knew how to make pretty, bias confirming pie charts for the .ppts of their future bosses. I suspect this is more of the same. Too bad we can’t just teach them to think. I go through a page of Euclid every few days with mine once they get to 4th grade and so far so good.

108 prior_test2 June 15, 2017 at 11:26 am

So, does the following concern ‘cosing,’ or something more fundamental relating to our shared digital world? ‘ In the Beginning was
the Command Line’ by Neal Stephenson –

109 prior_test2 June 15, 2017 at 11:26 am

Or cosying up to ‘coding,’ as the case may befefe.

110 The Cuckmeister-General June 15, 2017 at 11:45 am

Pipe down you cuck

111 A Berman June 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm

#5: My daughter – a college student in the humanities – asked me if she should take a programming course. I told her to instead take a basic statistics course. I am happy to say that I have noticed the effect of the statistics course on her way of thinking and evaluating the world.

For the record, I have a PhD in CS.

112 Hopaulius June 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm

#3 assumes that a calm surgeon is a competent surgeon. It did not cite any correlation between sweat and the quality of performance. How do we know that the calm surgeon is not a psychopath?

113 Soho June 15, 2017 at 3:34 pm

That test would definitely select for psycopaths. Not ideal…

114 Rimfax June 15, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Or that the calm surgeon is Tyler’s new favorite adjective, complacent.

Plus, one can readily imagine the performance enhancing drug market that such testing would create.

115 June 15, 2017 at 9:45 pm

On the contrary. Surgeons must have ‘psychopathic tendency’ otherwise they could not perform.

“””The bad news is that our colleagues in the operating room don’t fare quite so well. Surgeons—for some reason categorized separately from other doctors—are among the 10 most psychopathic professions, though they do get edged out by lawyers, media workers, and CEOs for the top three spots.”””

116 edgar June 15, 2017 at 12:38 pm

#1 “Distrust those cosmopolitans who search out remote duties in their books and neglect those that lie nearest. Such philosophers will love the Tartars to avoid loving their neighbour.” – Rousseau

117 edgar June 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm

#6 (warning goes to NYT) – Wow! Who would have thought Krugman capable of such rousing support for the Trump corporate tax plan!

118 Zach June 15, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Lots of people think about teaching programming in school in an overly optimistic way:

“When I was in high school, I took a lot of classes I wasn’t really interested in, taught by teachers who didn’t have a deep understanding of the subject. But I developed a deep and obsessive interest in programming just by studying on my own! They should teach coding and drop History!”

But if you teach programming in school, you have to take what’s there to be had. That’s going to mean that most students don’t really want to be there, and most teachers don’t have a deep understanding of the subject.

Is programming really all that useful without the theoretical computer science underpinnings? Or are you going to replace “Henry VIII, Spanish Armada, 1066” with “do loop, for loop, subroutine” — little memory fragments that people never really use in life?

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