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Art and Computer Science

May 22nd, 2014 by Scott Roth

I picked up a book in Armedia’s technical library by accident the other day, but have come to really appreciate the rewards of that serendipitous event. I first grabbed the book because of its author, Don Knuth, is a well-known innovator in the computer science world. I flipped the book open and thumbed through the table of contents because the book’s title, “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About” intrigued me. I wanted to know what this scientist-of-scientists rarely talked about. The chapter that really caught my attention was titled “Aesthetics: Scientific work as an artistic endeavor”. Awesome. I have previously written about how computer programs can be viewed as art. I’m not the only one with that perspective, Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, made similar comparisons in a recent interview.

The point of this blog post is not to review the book, though I do recommend it. It is whimsical and thought provoking, and probably not at all what you are expecting it to be. The point of this post is a sentiment that professor Knuth expresses in chapter 4:

“Somehow the whole ideas of art and aesthetics and beauty underlies all of the scientific work I do. Whatever I do, I try to do it in a way that has some elegance; I try to create something that I think is beautiful. Instead of just getting a job done, I prefer to do my work in a way that pleases me in as many senses as possible.”

“Thus I know that there are other people besides me who don’t like to spend time doing things unless they can also take pride and pleasure in seeing those things turn out to be beautiful.”

I think that this sentiment sums up my feelings about computer programming and art/aesthetics/beauty succinctly. And I think it speaks for many of my colleagues here at Armedia. We aren’t robots that just spew out computer code, solution designs, or documentation. We are passionate about what we do. Each of our solutions is finely crafted to meet our customers’ exact needs, and done in a way to not only satisfy requirements, but to satisfy the soul (that’s the “art” part of it). We take great care and pride in the solutions we produce. Each one is a (working) work of art in our eyes, and hopefully to our customers’ too.

Strive for beauty in your work.

P.S. Here is an article by Prof. Knuth that is just as germane to this topic today as it was when it was written in 1974.

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