7 John McCarthy Papers in 7 Weeks - Prologue

In the spirit of Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, I have decided to embark on a quest. But instead of focusing on expanding my mindset with different programming languages, I am focusing on trying to get into the mindset of John McCarthy), father of LISP and AI, by reading and thinking about seven of his papers.

Why?

Get out of your box

If you are comfortable, you are not challenging yourself to grow. You are doomed to stay in your same mindset and your little box and your world gets smaller. As an Object Oriented programmer, I was happy in my little box. Then one day, I discovered Clojure and Functional Programming and my world became bigger and richer because of it. I hope to glean a similar box expansion, by exploring the thoughts of McCarthy. Especially, since I have the nagging suspicion that we are somehow doing programming “completely wrong.”

Slow Down

Reading papers is an antidote to today’s relentless stream of Twitter and Hacker News techno stuff. It forces you to slow down and read something …gasp, maybe even the same thing multiple times and digest it. Thinking slow and eating more veggies is something we could all do more.

Structure

Following a somewhat arbitrary schedule of seven papers in seven weeks gives a structure that gives an measurable goal and timeline to this endeavor. Which gives you a fighting chance of actually getting it accomplished.

The Answer is Never Too Far Away

When we are presented with a problem, more often then not, the answer comes to us from some of our recent thoughts and experiences. Many breakthroughs in new technologies have come from cross pollination across different fields. Exposing yourself to a new ways of thinking gives your creative problem solving abilities new and powerful ammunition.

Encourage Others

Serendipity moves in mysterious ways. By sharing your travels and thoughts, who knows what might spark in someone else’s mind…

So I encourage you to join along. Pick a paper that appeals to you and read it this week. Think about it, talk to your co-workers about it, maybe write about it, or even code from it. But most importantly, slow down and take a moment to peek outside your box.

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