TITLE: IAWTP -- More on Sharing the Thrill AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 10, 2005 3:17 PM DESC: Is this the finest eulogy one could give for computing ever written? ----- BODY: Not too long ago, I wrote about an an opinion piece by Sanjeev Arora and Bernard Chazelle that, in part, decried the lack of good story-telling by computer scientists. Not the stories we tell each other, because there are plenty of those and many are wonderful. What's missing are stories we tell the rest of the world about just how thrilling our discipline is and can be. A recent post at Ernie's 3D Pancakes returns to this theme of story-telling. The article begins as a discussion on Bill Gates' much-discussed interview with Maria Klawe. Toward the end, though, Ernie gets to what for me was his killer point. First, he catalogs the most common stories that non-CS folks hear and tell about computing: When people do hear or tell the "Oh Wow! This Is So Cool!", he writes, it's usually just a cover for one of the other story lines. And here is the paragraph that we computer scientists should wake up and recite each day:
This lack of stories is an endless source of frustration for those of us who say "Oh Wow!" every day. We see power and beauty in computer science, even while we rage against the limitations of the technology that grows out of it. We see our field not (just) as a way to make boxes that beep, but as a fundamentally new way of thinking about the world. We are craftsmen, taking great satisfaction in the structures we build. We drag abstractions kicking and screaming from Plato's cave, and we make them real. We are explorers, proud of our hard-won discoveries but humbled by the depth of our ignorance. We have changed the world, utterly and irreversibly. Our influence on your daily life may be less immediate than the influence of doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers, and soldiers, but it is no less profound. And we are just barely getting started. Oooh. Drama.
More importantly, we need to find entertaining and compelling ways to tell our friends and the rest of the world -- and, yes, our sons and our daughters. -----