Programming Languages

In Self Analysis, L. Ron Hubbard says:

Language is quite acceptable when understood as a symbol for the act and thing. But the word “ashtray” is no substitute for an ashtray. If you do not believe this, try to put your ashes on the airwaves which have just carried the word “ashtray.” Called a “saucer” or an “elephant,” the object intended for the ashes serves just as well.

Have you ever thought about the fact that a programming language is just a representation of actions? (In actual fact, it’s a representation for a structure of data, actions taken on that data, and the results of those actions.) It’s just symbols. It doesn’t matter if we call a symbol “goto” or we call it “elephant,” it’s still going to be doing the same thing. And it’s not those symbols that are the actions, they just represent the actions.

It’s easy to become immersed in the complexities of programming languages, and to lose view of the fact that a computer program is there to do something, and that is the only reason it’s there. A computer program is not in fact “a bunch of code,” but is actually a series of actions performed by the computer, and the code is just a representation.

When you write a shopping list, you are giving yourself instructions about what to buy. The actual activity of shopping involves walking through the store and picking those items off the shelf. If you just wrote the instructions and called it a day, you wouldn’t be shopping. The instructions are a symbol for the action, not the action itself.

Similarly, a “bunch of code” is not a computer program, it’s a representation of a computer program. That’s kind of an interesting thought, isn’t it?