Monday, December 17, 2018

The Yoda of Silicon Valley | NYT

Excerpt from an extensive Donald Knuth profile:
"Following Dr. Knuth’s doctrine helps to ward off moronry. He is known for introducing the notion of “literate programming,” emphasizing the importance of writing code that is readable by humans as well as computers — a notion that nowadays seems almost twee. Dr. Knuth has gone so far as to argue that some computer programs are, like Elizabeth Bishop’s poems and Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral,” works of literature worthy of a Pulitzer.

He is also a notorious perfectionist. Randall Munroe, the xkcd cartoonist and author of “Thing Explainer,” first learned about Dr. Knuth from computer-science people who mentioned the reward money Dr. Knuth pays to anyone who finds a mistake in any of his books. As Mr. Munroe recalled, “People talked about getting one of those checks as if it was computer science’s Nobel Prize.”

Dr. Knuth’s exacting standards, literary and otherwise, may explain why his life’s work is nowhere near done. He has a wager with Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google and a former student (to use the term loosely), over whether Mr. Brin will finish his Ph.D. before Dr. Knuth concludes his opus."
The Yoda of Silicon Valley | NYT

No comments: