Arts & Humanities: Don't Leave College Without Them

creative computers: what the overlap of programming and poetry teaches us about creativity

by Lily Marks

of emotions, creativity, and growth that technology can- not yet replicate. No one should think of humans and technology as opposing one another, because neither work alone. Those who believe we only learn best from paper books are rejecting the ability for technology to serve as an extension (and not a replacement) of human intelligence. However, for technology to help us learn, we must ap- proach it from this standpoint. Using the label “Com- puter Science” allows us to forget how similar the pro- cess is to that of learning a new language, as well as how much more useful technology will be to humans if we approach computer science from a humanities back- ground. Each programming language, as unforgivingly precise as it may be, has a sort of musicality to it. The repetition of certain phrases is not unlike a refrain. Much like how learners of foreign languages must adjust to unfamil- iar syntaxes, coders develop fluency in these patterns. Additionally, the required symmetry of code recalls cer- tain poetic forms. Rules like the logic of “if…then” state- ments or the required indents following colons demand a structure with its own internal logic. The brain processes required to master this science are certainly similar to the process of learning a new lan- guage, or even understanding the format of a sonnet or villanelle in one’s own language. Much as literature, the same program could be written in a variety of styles.

Writing programs in Python requires the sort of preci- sion most of my writing doesn’t demand. A missing let- ter, an extra comma, or a poorly arranged phrase are more than just confusing; the smallest spelling mistake will stop the program completely. In Python, typing “print” will tell the program to print the characters that follow this command. Typing “Print” yields nothing. Computer Science is not so forgiving of my penchant for typos. Whenever I discover these small problems: the missing colon, the extra space, I want to shout, “it’s close enough!” But of course, the computer can’t “fig - ure it out” the same way a human would. I don’t think I’m the only one who was initially re- pelled by this. The computer doesn’t act like a human. It doesn’t grasp nuances or appreciate aesthetics. Yet this is what others love about computers: the fact that they aren’t human. They don’t make human mistakes. They aren’t inconsistent or volatile. If the code is writ- ten correctly it will work. Every single time. This precision may encourage the pretty prevalent fear that technology is taking over human roles. I’m sure some people welcome the idea of increased efficiency as much as others are afraid of being replaced. But this division doesn’t quite make sense. The capabilities and potential capabilities of comput- ers reach far beyond anything we could do with a hu- man brain alone, yet I still believe there are elements


Arts & Humanities

Don’t Leave College Without Them


Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker