May 11, 2009

Artistic Engineers

I've always believed that artistic or creative talent was indispensable in technical fields like science, engineering and software development. But I never put together a coherent enough description to warrant a blog post, only the occasional soliloquy over a drink. But now I've just read DHH's blog entry "We need both engineers and artists in programming", and he described it so well, I just had to respond. His description focused on a developers perspective:

People waxing lyrically about beautiful code and its sensibilities. People willing to trade the hard scientific measurements such as memory footprint and runtime speed for something so ephemeral as programmer happiness.

Now I'm originally a pure science researcher. And there is no more extreme case of a non-artistic image than that of a scientist. What do most people think: white lab-coats, thick-rimmed glasses, rigorous systematic approach to everything in life and a total lack of
artistic flair.

And often that image is not entirely inaccurate. As 'Robert Martin' indicated, professionalism is a very important quality for software development (and I add - science and engineering in general). But as DHH asserts: 'the wonderful thing about this new age of programming is that we need and prosper from both types of programmers'.

I agree with David. You really do need both types. And if you look back at some of the most impressive discoveries in science in the 20th century, there were artistic people involved, usually with the key discovery. I love the biggest deviation from the boring stereotype - Einstein, with his wild hair and almost chaotic appearance.

It's all about thinking outside the box. David says it's all about 'programmer happiness'. Of course he's right too.

Now what about the irony that DHH's profile shot is so much more professional looking than Einstein's?

1 comment:

Jabulani said...

Ah but David has wild hair too - it's all trendy and not slicked down with a button-up shirt all the way to his Adam's apple.
Curiously, the profile pic on this blog also has a 'professional looking' chap. But I know differently :-) Looks can be deceiving! Mind you, he does appear to need shicklax ...