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Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

Paul Graham · 6 HN comments
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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 & Painters: 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 facts: 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 & Painters: 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.
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Mar 06, 2019 · espeed on Nasa's Visual Universe
So you understand the essence of art, and you're saying experimenting with machine learning as an artistic tool should play no part -- it's out of scope?

Have you read the book Hackers & Painters [1]?

Do any of these other Arts & Culture Experiments speak to you?


I’m being misunderstood. I do think that machine learning can be an artistic tool. I do think that experimental art is important.

The crux of my argument isn’t about the experiment itself. It is how Google chooses to present it that gets in the way of contemplating, understanding and enjoying the experiment.

About the books: I shall check them out, appreciate the insight.

My free advice: Learn Lisp for the reasons PG outlines in Hackers and Painters [] i.e. Lisp is a higher level language than x.

Peter Seibel's Practical Common Lisp is available online (and as a book) and provides a lot good advice including a link to lispbox, which in the best "learn the hard way" tradition, requires you to finally learn emacs.

[] []

PG's own Ansi Common Lisp is more of a traditional textbook as well as a reference to the language. The exercises are thought provoking. It is available through Amazon including used copies.

Because Lisp originated as a way of describing Turing machines, the discussions tend to cover a lot of the theoretical background and deeper insight into how particular features may be used...or at least that's my impression.

Good luck.

I've always been on my way to work through SICP. Maybe that's something that I should actually do... :)
Unfortunately, lispbox is badly out of date: "Last updated: February 6, 2011."

If you're on windows, try Lisp Cabinet. Elsewhere, you'll have to configure things yourself.

Nov 19, 2009 · joshstaiger on Apple's Mistake

From 2004, but comprised mostly of essays that are on his site.

My experience is that none of the self-help books ever did very much for me. This includes Steven Covey, Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Zig Zigler, the Secret, etc., etc., etc. Some were entertaining, but that was it. I understand that these books do help many people who need their messages; I'm just not one of them. I prefer books that inspire me and tell me what to do.

My favorites?

How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis.

Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout

Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The 22 Immutable Rules of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Digitial Aboriginal by Mikela Tarlow and Philip Tarlow

and, of course

Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

Before you do anything else, go to and read all of the essays! I don't want to sound like a shill or hero worshipper for pg, but, understand, these essays are the very best thing out there for anyone on this forum. I am here because of the essays, not the other way around.

Also available in hardcover form at your local Amazon.
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