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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

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"The computer world is like an intellectual Wild West, in which you can shoot anyone you wish with your ideas, if you're willing to risk the consequences. " --from Hackers & Big Ideas from the Computer Age , by Paul Graham We are living in the computer age, in a world increasingly designed and engineered by computer programmers and software designers, by people who call themselves hackers. Who are these people, what motivates them, and why should you care? Consider these Everything around us is turning into computers. Your typewriter is gone, replaced by a computer. Your phone has turned into a computer. So has your camera. Soon your TV will. Your car was not only designed on computers, but has more processing power in it than a room-sized mainframe did in 1970. Letters, encyclopedias, newspapers, and even your local store are being replaced by the Internet. Hackers & Big Ideas from the Computer Age , by Paul Graham, explains this world and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Graham takes readers on an unflinching exploration into what he calls "an intellectual Wild West." The ideas discussed in this book will have a powerful and lasting impact on how we think, how we work, how we develop technology, and how we live. Topics include the importance of beauty in software design, how to make wealth, heresy and free speech, the programming language renaissance, the open-source movement, digital design, internet startups, and more.

253 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 20, 2004

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About the author

Paul Graham

8 books525 followers
Paul Graham is an essayist, programmer, and programming language designer. In 1995 he developed with Robert Morris the first web-based application, Viaweb, which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998. In 2002 he described a simple statistical spam filter that inspired a new generation of filters. He's currently working on a new programming language called Arc, a new book on startups, and is one of the partners in Y Combinator.

Paul is the author of On Lisp (Prentice Hall, 1993), ANSI Common Lisp (Prentice Hall, 1995), and Hackers & Painters (O'Reilly, 2004). He has an AB from Cornell and a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard, and studied painting at RISD and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence.

Paulgraham.com got 10.6 million page views in 2008.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 506 reviews
Profile Image for Einar.
34 reviews17 followers
August 10, 2011
I had serious problems with this book. So Paul Graham is a successful Lisp hacker who made a lot of money from his start-up. Good for him. To be sure, this earns him some credibility in discussing languages and start-ups. Unfortunately, he takes it upon himself to extrapolate from this single data point to universal laws of what makes you successful. Moreover, he seems to think that his success as a geek entrepreneur somehow lends validity to whatever unsubstantiated thoughts, feelings and prejudices he may cook up, including some completely ridiculous views on the general superiority of geeks over regular people. The only reason so many of his readers seem to accept these views must be that he's preaching to the choir: certainly his geek audience would dearly like them to be true. His arcane and naive notions of art and aesthetics are too embarrassing to even discuss. Oh, and the smugness is just insufferable.
11 reviews5 followers
January 6, 2009
Meh. This started out promising. While it may provide inspirational fodder for young, technological entrepreneurs, everyone else might soon find the tone obnoxious and constant extrapolation tedious.

Graham is at his best when he sticks to what he knows: programming and business technology. As such, the best chapter is "programming languages explained." This chapter held the most accessible explanation on language analytic that I've ever come across, and is a pleasure to read. Other chapters, such as "how to make wealth" might be of interest to someone with little understanding of economies of wealth, but to anyone else, it pretty much comes off as an Ayn Rand diatribe. The hacker/painter metaphor wears thin pretty fast; thankfully, he doesn't return to it.

Not a waste of a book, but I expected more. Great for a first year comp sci/arts minor.

It's easily possible to pick and choose what you would like to read, for this book is written as a collection of essays.

If your looking for something in the same vein, but far more rewarding --> "godel escher bach."
Profile Image for Kevin Powe.
84 reviews2 followers
June 25, 2011
What I expected going in was interested parallels on the process of creating software versus other creative arts, and what Graham had learned across multiple disciplines. That I can dig.

What I got is a string of thinly justified essays that are lionising The Uber1337 Hacker as a misunderstood maverick agent for changing that is only being kept back by The Man.

Graham is a smart man - far smarter than me, and he's written a lot more software. But the tone of the book is grating, because:

a) he keeps coming back to that one point again and again
b) he never stoops to justifying his claims with a backing argument.

In Graham's view, the hacker is the central agent of change, of creating value, and while that may be true in his experience, it's a tremendously limited viewpoint, and he comes across as remarkably arrogant towards anything outside his experience. The biggest danger in this is people with half his intelligence justifying their own worldview via his writing.

I'd be a lot less annoyed with this book if Graham did himself a giant favour and didn't introduce his views on how economics interacts with society. He's obviously entitled to a viewpoint, but it's a remarkably cloistered one, and without justifying his opinion, it just comes off as another rich white guy wondering why people are griping instead of getting out there and Making Stuff (go get 'em tiger!)

The essays in here on programming and what he's learned from art are interesting - I'd love to read a whole book extrapolating on these points.
Profile Image for Anusha Narasimhan.
270 reviews257 followers
May 19, 2020
A collection of essays that are thought-provoking and insightful. The author makes nerds look super cool, so a big thumbs up from me. I recommend it to programmers and people interested in computer science. Will reread and write a proper review sometime in the future.
Profile Image for Vijay Chidambaram.
Author 1 book6 followers
October 13, 2015
I am a fan of PG's essays, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, it is just a collection of essays he has published online. If you have read the essays available on his website, you can safely skip this book.

In many of the essays, PG makes statements such as "The time to code a program depends mainly on its length.." which are ridiculous. I know he is trying to appeal to a wider audience, but staying stuff like this without anything to back it up is ridiculous. Some of his arguments go like this:

1. Controversial statement
2. Because of #1, controversial statement #2
3. Because of #3, our conclusion! Viola!

Profile Image for Philipp.
632 reviews189 followers
October 9, 2013
It's a strange hit-and-miss affair, this collection -

the essays on software design and especially programming languages (and the advantages of Lisp) are a joy to read, Graham's clearly a great, succinct writer.

The essays on society, however, are too "American" for my taste - Graham takes a single data-point (often his own life) and then extrapolates from his point to hell and back creating a 100% black-and-white worldview. The very first essay is on "nerds" vs. "non-nerds", I'd say, and is mostly based on his own high school time. The gist of it is that nerds in high-school were the most pure beings and the only "adults" and oh-so-clear-sighted and just forced to put up with this prison called high-school, and how everybody else was and is just an idiot etc. pp. There's also one extremely strange essay on generating wealth that was just written, I think, because Graham is rich? It's mostly "Rich people earn so much money because they work hard and generate a lot of wealth", yeah, we saw in the last financial crisis how much wealth bankers generate.

My advice: Skip the society essays, read the programming essays.
Profile Image for Ekaterina Kiseki.
13 reviews2 followers
December 3, 2016
Haven't finished the book. The man may be very good at his job, but he sucks at writing. The book looks like a compilation of cheap motivation posts with catchy titles. However it may amuse those who are completely unrelated to IT.
Profile Image for Vignesh.
28 reviews8 followers
February 27, 2016
Starting from random opinionated views on how the world works, to interesting correlations about art and science ending with a strong evangelism on the programming language lisp, Paul forces us to put our thinking cap on.
Profile Image for Michelle Tran.
91 reviews5 followers
July 28, 2013
The articles on technology were decent (not great), but it was hard not to facepalm every couple of pages on his articles about social commentary.
Profile Image for Matt.
27 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2009
A fun-to-read mix of insight and ideology, Graham is someone we can learn from no matter which side of the box he's thinking on. His essay on nerds ("Why Nerds are Unpopular") is still a favorite, even while his essay on disparity of wealth ("Mind the Gap") is among the most unreflective apologies for anarcho-capitalism I've ever read.

I was, at least, inspired enough while reading Graham to put a few more thoughts together; those interested can find them here.
Profile Image for Ross Siegel.
67 reviews3 followers
March 21, 2013
Self indulgent, self-congratulatory, vague concepts expounding on platitudes & trivialities.
Paul Graham is a badass, no doubt, but this book can be skipped.
Profile Image for Ankush Chander.
27 reviews22 followers
June 17, 2017
I wish I picked this book in my first year undergrad(or any other book then for that matter :P). Glad to be reading it now nevertheless.
Profile Image for Saeed.
173 reviews55 followers
November 6, 2019
I just like the 2 chapters of this book. These two chapters are worth to read.
They are: 6. How to Make Wealth & 7. Mind the Gap (The Daddy Model of Wealth).
Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Mahrous.
330 reviews178 followers
May 28, 2020
Eye-opening and eloquently-written essays about hackers (experienced programmers, not the negative meaning), art, nerds and wealth.
Profile Image for Max Nova.
420 reviews172 followers
November 5, 2017
Full review and highlights at https://books.max-nova.com/hackers-and-painters/

I was looking at my highlights for Paul Graham's "Hackers and Painters" and it seems like I basically highlighted the entire book. It's that good.

At its core, this is a book about how changes in technology (particularly computer tech) has changed economic and social realities... and the new breed of tech-savvy doers that these technological shifts have brought to the forefront of our society.

Graham begins at the beginning of the alpha-nerd's journey - middle school. He launches a withering salvo of criticism at the current educational system - a system which he fashions more of a prison than a temple of learning. He's a sharp critic of what he proclaims "the emptiness of school life" and he points out that "Misrule breeds rebellion" (in reference to troubled schools). Graham also contends that the total lack of real purpose in schools is the root of the crazy teenage drama that goes on in middle schools and high schools around the country.

He moves on to discussing the role of "makers" in society - from the eponymous hackers to painters. He makes a great observation - which is that while both of these professions involve creating things, painting has a far longer tradition of training and educating its practitioners. Graham notes that almost all great programmers are self-taught, but the lack of a good training regimen for programmers means that society misses out on a lot of potentially great hackers.

Graham touches on the often subversive, counter-authority, and contrarian culture of hackers - noting, "Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas." He goes on a bit of a (justified) rant against political correctness and moral fashions - noting that, "when people are bad at open mindedness, they don't know it. In fact they tend to think the opposite. Remember, it's the nature of fashion to be invisible. It wouldn't work otherwise"

He also emphasizes how goddam patriotic it is to be a hacker: "There is such a thing as American-ness. There's nothing like living abroad to teach you that. And if you want to know whether something will nurture or squash this quality, it would be hard to find a better focus group than hackers, because they come closest of any group I know to embodying it." He pulls in a great Jefferson quote too:

"When you read what the founding fathers had to say for themselves, they sound more like hackers. "The spirit of resistance to government," Jefferson wrote, "is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive." Imagine an American president saying that today. Like the remarks of an outspoken old grandmother, the sayings of the the founding fathers have embarrassed generations of their less confident successors. They remind us where we come from. They remind us that it is the people who break rules that are the source of America's wealth and power."

In the next section of the book, Graham discusses the nature of writing code itself. He emphasizes the design and complexity of software - "designing web-based software is like designing a city rather than a building: as well as buildings you need roads, street signs, utilities, police and fire departments, and plans for both growth and various kinds of disasters." He notes that, "with the rise of industrialization there are fewer and fewer craftsmen. One of the biggest remaining groups is computer programmers"

Graham's next topic is on wealth creation - and why startups are so good at it. He claims that "I think every one who gets rich by their own efforts will be found to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. Everyone I can think of does: CEOs, movie stars, hedge fund managers, professional athletes. A good hint to the presence of leverage is the possibility of failure." He also puts forth some pretty bold historical analysis: "Understanding this may help to answer an important question: why Europe grew so powerful. Was it something about the geography of Europe? Was it that Europeans are somehow racially superior? Was it their religion? The answer (or at least the proximate cause) may be that the Europeans rode on the crest of a powerful new idea: allowing those who made a lot of money to keep it."

He pulls out a few great examples of technology fundamentally reshaping society, noting "But it was not till the Industrial Revolution that wealth creation definitively replaced corruption as the best way to get rich. In England, at least, corruption only became unfashionable (and in fact only started to be called "corruption") when there started to be other, faster ways to get rich... Technology had made it possible to create wealth faster than you could steal it. The prototypical rich man of the nineteenth century was not a courtier but an industrialist."

In regards to the increasing income gap, Graham says, "Will technology increase the gap between rich and poor? It will certainly increase the gap between the productive and the unproductive. That's the whole point of technology... Technology should increase the gap in income, but it seems to decrease other gaps. A hundred years ago, the rich led a different kind of life from ordinary people. They lived in houses full of servants, wore elaborately uncomfortable clothes, and travelled about in carriages drawn by teams of horses which themselves required their own houses and servants. Now, thanks to technology, the rich live more like the average person."

A great money quote from Graham is, "It's absolute poverty you want to avoid, not relative poverty. If, as the evidence so far implies, you have to have one or the other in your society, take relative poverty. You need rich people in your society not so much because in spending their money they create jobs, but because of what they have to do to get rich. I'm not talking about the trickle-down effect here. I'm not saying that if you let Henry Ford get rich, he'll hire you as a waiter at his next party. I'm saying that he'll make you a tractor to replace your horse."

The rest of the book is a rant on programming languages and a lot of love for the esoteric Lisp programming language. Probably not of general interest.

Overall though, this book really blew me away. Everything he says seems obvious in retrospect, but that's because he's a genius. The way he approaches this immense topic is totally unique among all the stuff I've read and Graham certainly has the credentials to back it up. Required reading for citizens of the 21st century.
Profile Image for Viet Nguyen.
127 reviews45 followers
June 29, 2013
A collection of essays from Paul Graham, a programmer who strongly advocates LISP programming. This book provides deep insights into nerd's life, hacker, entrepreneurship, and, which I enjoy the most, programming language. Paul showed why LISP is "the most powerful programming language" by comparing it with many other programming language: C, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby.

4 star only because the info is somehow out of date.

Here is my quick notes:

Chap 1. Reading about nerds in school made something inside me resonate.

Chap 2. Hackers and Painters
- Hacking and Painting have a lot in common.
- "Computer Science" is not a good term
- mathematicians - people in between - hackers
- Universities and research labs force hackers to be scientists, and companies force them to be engineers
- One way to build great software is to start your own startup. but 2 problems: have to do so much besides write software, 2) not much overlap between the kind of software that makes money and the kind that's interesting to write.
ex: hacking programming languages doesn't pay as well as figuring out how to connect some company's legacy database to their web server.
--> Solution: day jobs. you have one kind of work you do for money, and another for love.
- hackers learn to hack by doing
- hackers start original, and get good, and scientists start good, and get original
- hackers can learn to program by looking at good programs - not just what they do, but at the source code.
- hackers should have empathy for users, readers.

Chap 3. What you can't say

Chap 4. Good Bad Attitude

Chap 5. The Other Road Ahead

Chap 6. How to make Wealth

Chap 10. Programming Language Explained

Chap 11. The Hundred-year Language

Chap 12. Beating the Averages

Chap 13. Revenge of the Nerds
- All languages are not equivalent
- Java, Perl, Python, Ruby
- Lisp - an effort to define a more convenient alternative to the Turing machine - John McCarthy
- 9 ideas of Lisp:
+ Conditionals
+ A function type
+ Recursion
+ Dynamic typing
+ Garbage-collection
+ Programs composed of expressions
+ A symbol type
+ A notation for code using trees of symbols and constants.
+ The whole language there all the time.

Chap 14. The Dream Language
- succintness is one place where statically typed language lose.

Chap 15. Design and Research

Profile Image for Maxwell Foley.
55 reviews
August 16, 2017
Capitalist propaganda at its finest (?). Paul Graham is the founder of YCombinator, an incredibly influential venture capital firm in the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem, and in this book he appears to be spelling out a sort of Silicon Valley manifesto, in which he portrays talented computer programmers, who he calls "hackers", as Promethean heroes locked in a constant battle to overcome the stifling mediocrity of the "pointy-haired bosses" giving them orders. Graham comes off as a likable, intelligent, curious guy, but given the recent cultural turn towards criticism of the Silicon Valley new elite, it's hard not to read his anti-authoritarian stance with intense skepticism.

The best part of this book is its first chapter "Why Nerds Are Unpopular". As one might imagine, it serves to glorify the titular nerds as solitary innovators unencumbered by the vapid fashions of the herd, and placing it at the front of his book reeks of self-indulgence and insecurity. Nevertheless, this is probably one of the more insightful critiques of the social dynamics of the American high school system that I have encountered.

One strange chapter in the book is the one where he rails against political correctness, telling the reader that in any time and place there will always be heretical truths which you cannot say and should simply keep to yourself. I pretty much agree with this entirely, but what does this have to do with programming? It comes off as creepy in this context, imho.

Most of the rest of the book is scattered meditations on various aspects of programming languages and software design. It is somewhat interesting and well-written, but doesn't really add up to a coherent book - it feels much more like reading someone's blog. I was kind of hoping to see more extended metaphors between programming and art given that I went to school for both, but the analogy is pretty surface-level.
1 review1 follower
October 2, 2011
The hackers and painters link is tenuous at best, and I didn't find much of the stuff in here revolutionary, but it was published in 2004 and I tend to agree with most of it. It seems to be mostly geared toward inspiring nerds to make more conscious decisions in the career, be it starting a business or otherwise even if it does claim to be aimed at anyone interested in learning about software and software systems. All that said, Graham is a decent writer. He adopts an authoritative tone which people might find annoying, but when it comes down to it these are opinion pieces and it's tough to expect otherwise.
August 11, 2008
I'm sorry to say that I don't quite like the idea of disjointed , independent chapters. It kills my motivation to read this book (anyway, who cares about spam algorithms, at least have a little motivation and introduction!) . The content are good, but if you've followed the silicon valley stories long enough, this book is just like a repetition without (well, may be a bit ) new ideas being introduced. I was expecting more breakthrough stuff coming out of the book, but I'm disappointed.
Profile Image for Arden.
96 reviews5 followers
January 29, 2010
Often after I read a book I think about what it would be like to meet the author and talk about the book with him or her. I have no desire to meet Paul Graham. He sounds so arrogant and pontificates so much about things he really doesn't know much about that I can't imagine talking to him. I agree with David's review below.
Profile Image for Sananab.
267 reviews15 followers
December 19, 2020
I don't want to be crass but this guy is the high king of absolute bullshit. Even when he's stating simple, true, uncontroversial facts, he twists them into vacuous, anti-informative bullshit that makes you a lesser person for having read it. I call it "hackernewsing".
Profile Image for Ilya Ivanov.
25 reviews7 followers
July 9, 2017
Great book, not only for developers. You don't need to agree with all Paul's points (I certainly didn't) in order to appreciate courage and creativity of authors ideas.
Profile Image for João Conde.
9 reviews
September 5, 2022
I notice a trend among famous American tech-savvy authors: they state opinions as facts with little to no proof. For example, stating that nerds are unpopular because “smart makes you unpopular” by definition is a very American view of high school. I don't deny this is the case in most American high schools, but he is stating an opinion (that being a nerd equals being unpopular) which is just not true in many parts of the world (speaking of personal experience).

I think this American bias is worse when it comes to wealth and money. In his words, “in our world, you sink or swim, and there are no excuses”. This is a very erroneous take. I challenge Graham to think about how his life would have been if he was born in the poorest African community.

Graham says that wealth and money are different. I agree with this. In our specialized society, we produce some wealth for money, that we use to buy other forms of wealth. However, he deems it reasonable for a person to have 128x the money because he produces 128x the wealth. But the example he gives is that of a basketball player. Graham thinks a basketball player produces 128x more wealth than, for example, a doctor or a firefighter. Let that sink in, I won’t delve into how wrong this is, but he uses the same argument to justify CEO earnings, amongst others.

Graham even contradicts himself, when he says “If one person gets more, someone has to get less” when referring to money and then saying that a common fallacy is thinking “if a few rich people had all the money, it left less for everyone else”. Wealth can be created (we see eye-to-eye on this one) but money can not, so if someone has more, someone has less.

Graham states a society that taxes the rich will end up poorer because there will be no incentive to produce wealth. This is neither true nor false. I think Americans are quick to condemn communism but then fall to the extreme opposite, capitalism. To be clear, I think both are terrible systems in their purest forms. The secret: balance. You can’t tax to a point where working yields no increase in wealth, but you need to do so at a level that ensures the entire society has a HUMAN life (access to healthcare, education, transportation, housing, leisure time, ...).

Finally, Graham makes the quintessential American tech-savvy author statement (I’ve seen Peter Thiel write something very similar). This is so ridiculous I have to just quote it: “Hackers are unruly. That is the essence of hacking. And it is also the essence of Americanness. It is no accident that Silicon Valley is in America, and not France, or Germany, or England, or Japan. In those countries, people color inside the lines.” To be clear, I am all for unruliness and questioning everything, especially what should not be questioned. But to link that exclusively to America is just laughable.

I have some comments to make regarding the technical component of the book as well. For context, I learned to program in Scheme, which is a dialect of the Lisp family. And I loved it. However, I can’t agree with the overall statements Graham makes about Lisp superiority. What is funny is that he begins by saying that part of the problem is if you use a language long enough you start to think about it and think the one you use is the best…. but then he exhibits this exact behavior when talking about Lisp’s superiority throughout the book. He even goes as far as suggesting, given enough computing power in the future, that we only need lists as data structures. Not biased at all as a Lisp user.

First, the assumption that a higher-level language is always preferable and superior (thus making Lisp one of the best) is just wrong. Each use case calls for a different tool. You will not write drivers, embedded software, firmware, and others in Lisp.

Secondly, can we stop comparing languages using “Hello World” examples? This is extremely misleading because real-life software will be bigger and more complex, where, for example, Java’s boilerplate won’t be as noticeable as in a “Hello World” example. I dislike Java by the way, but this is no way to make comparisons.

Thirdly, he is very keen on dynamically typed languages. Graham states a language needs to be good to write “throw away programs”. Here I think Graham mixed two concepts: typing and the ability to be explicit or implicit about it. Languages like Scala, TypeScript, and Rust can infer types, thus reducing static typing boilerplate. Of course, the book was written in 2004, when I think these languages did not exist or were just coming out (like Scala), so this is more of a comment than a critique.

Finally, Graham says Lisp is worth learning and that it will make you a better programmer. I partially agree with him here. In reality, any language that makes you switch paradigms will make you a better programmer. Whether you are trying logical or constraint programming with Prolog, functional with Lisp, imperative with C++, or OOP with Java.

I enjoyed the hackers and painters comparison. I do think we have more in common with fine arts than engineering itself. Nevertheless, I don’t fully agree when he says hackers need to understand computer science as much as painters need to know about chemistry (which is to say very little). Perhaps for Viaweb, an e-commerce store building website, that was the case, but try implementing Google Maps without knowing the first thing about path-finding algorithms and you are in for a treat.

Overall, I am glad I read the book but I think Graham needs to stick to technical and business takes and leave social and economic takes to others.
Profile Image for Lourens.
84 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2023
I'd recommend reading Paul Graham's blog, reading whatever essays seem interesting to you, and leaving this book for what it is. Nothing in this book I strongly disagree with or think is poorly argued, but as a whole, the book has little direction.
Profile Image for Yevgeniy Brikman.
Author 4 books612 followers
January 11, 2012
A great read for all programmers and anyone interested in software. I don't agree with everything in the book, bit there are some terrific insights here. Some of my favorite quotes:

A programming language is for thinking of programs, not for expressing programs you've already thought of. pg 22

Programmers were seen as technicians who translated the visions (if that is the word) of product managers into code. pg 23

Software has to be designed by hackers who understand design, not designers who know a little about software. pg 85

[Programmers] literally think the product, one line at a time. pg 93

The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can mange it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it's also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know. pg 46

A program, like a proof, is a pruned version of a tree that in the past has had false starts branching off all over it. So the test of a language is not simply how clean the finished program looks in it, but how clean the path to the finished program was. pg 219
228 reviews11 followers
June 22, 2018
All ideas are great. One about school struck me -- the school system was mostly used as an elaborate baby sitting system. Children do not have to inherently wait until age 18 to learn about calculus. Teenagers have been productive (even prolific) in production and creation, from apprentice to creative activities such as hacking, when they are unshackled from the school system's dictated pace.

This idea shook me from the illusion people placed on doing well in school - which is set at learning paces for perhaps an imaginary medium learner but would not work for all. Instead of providing children opportunities to learn at their own paces, school is increasing becoming a rat race. Excel at the race and you are still a rat -- did not learn about your self, and did not create/produce original things.

Regret not spending more time to focus on math, and being distracted by other subjects that school dictates. Required memorization about useless historic tidbit that certain event happened in certain year. Would not want this repeated for children and the future generations. Let everyone free to create/produce, learning by doing. If anyone is thinking about the socializing aspect of school - this could easily be incorporated into alternative create/produce group environment.
Profile Image for Liquidlasagna.
1,848 reviews75 followers
September 9, 2023

There are a few gems of insight in this book

and a lot of really odd junk, no wait....
tremendously odd junk.....


One comment that's interesting is he thinks programmers are libertarians with the brutal sink or swim mentality....

and i might dispute what he thinks a 'good programmer is'.....

he thinks that 5% of the best programmers, the elite write 99% of the code out there.....


I tend to think of Programming Style, and aspects of top down programming to really be 724 flavours of Scientology....

and people just drink the Kool-Ade
because of the fads of certain computer science textbook writers
that get embedded into the curriculum


In my world we would all be Programming in PL/I
on Control Data Corporation machines
eight floors underground

and no one comes up to the surface till they can predict, model and simulation the future accurately!

Profile Image for Tommy Collison.
Author 2 books45 followers
November 25, 2010
Paul Graham is a fiercely intelligent human being and Hackers and Painters is a fantastic set of essays from the most astute author of our time. What really strikes you about PG's writing is not the tone or the atmosphere or anything else that we look for in other novels, it's the fact that everything he writes is right, and as such, the back cover is absolutely correct: the "Why are Nerds Unpopular?" essay is worth the price of admission alone.
Profile Image for Vincent Chen.
47 reviews24 followers
January 15, 2023
Fascinating view into PG's mind. The book made me think and changed my mind about several ideas... which makes it a great book!
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