Are programmers smart?

  • (10 Pages)
  • +
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • Last »

141 Replies - 5848 Views - Last Post: 14 March 2012 - 12:00 PM

#1 searcher920  Icon User is offline

  • New D.I.C Head

Reputation: 15
  • View blog
  • Posts: 44
  • Joined: 30-December 11

Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 01:40 PM

*
POPULAR

Once in a while I have seen blog posts by programmers claiming that programmers (or software developers as they sometimes want to be called) have to be intelligent. I also notice some degree of snootiness in the IT department where I work. There seems to be an unspoken belief that the intellectual skills needed for programming are something you either are or are not born with, and can't do all that much to change.

I strongly disagree with that theory, even though I admit it might be partly true in a limited way. It is an elitist undemocratic theory, and I don't like it, but that is not the reason I disagree with it. I disagree because I don't think it's true.

(It also goes along with the idea that even if you are smart when young your brain will progressively shrivel, so after age 40 you are on your way towards slow and stupid.)

And I honestly think that although most IT people won't admit it, they do secretly believe all that.

My age is about 60, and I can remember different phases of my life when I learned different things and how it felt. Every time I started to learn a new thing I felt stupid and confused. iI could not understand the terminology and most of what I read was over my head. (That is IN SPITE of the fact that I got very high scores on standardized tests and have lots of education and could not be considered dumb.)

Now, after almost 20 years of programming experience, I still feel stupid and confused when trying to learn a whole new thing. However, the confusion doesn't last long as and I get past it more easily than when I was younger and I didn't know as much.

I feel like I am much smarter than I used to be -- about computers, at least -- and I feel that this "smartness" is really just knowledge and experience, not something I was born with. I have the kind of extreme patience with details you need for programming, and for many other professional fields. But I think that is something we learn or force ourselves to have.

I think most of what people call intelligence is really a combination of motivation, confidence, knowledge, experience and discipline. But our society has come to venerate intelligence because of the great advances in science and technology. It's almost like we replaced the old priesthoods and aristocracies with the idea of naturally smart people who rule the world.

I personally think it's wrong wrong wrong, but I admit it's natural for any society to venerate some elite group. It happens mostly subconsciously.

I certainly agree that many people could never in a million years learn how to program. But I think it's because they can't stand to be immersed in arbitrary details to that extent. They don't get past the initial stages so they never see the amazing potential of being able to program computers.

You probably need a certain kind of brain and mind to do this kind of work, but I do NOT think you have to be born with it. Yes you need a normally functioning brain, but aside from that no I do not think programmers have any special intelligence. Even the greatest programmers do not have special intelligence. I think I will be disagreed with about that, but it's what I believe as of now.

Is This A Good Question/Topic? 8
  • +

Replies To: Are programmers smart?

#2 wordswords  Icon User is offline

  • D.I.C Regular
  • member icon

Reputation: 76
  • View blog
  • Posts: 272
  • Joined: 17-December 11

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:10 PM

I agree with you. There is no special 'magic' in becoming a programmer, it is just knowledge that you have to gain, experience you develop, and confidence that comes with experience. Some people pick it up faster than others, but if you learn some theoretical understanding of computers and if you practice programming yourself, and in teams and learn from others, then you can develop the skills you'll need.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by the culture, the subject matter and the people in software development. I wish this were not the case, and I think it is always good to try and be friendly and approachable to those who want to learn. This site is actually friendlier than most that I've found, and most people here try and be helpful to newbies.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#3 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5578
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,931
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:13 PM

*
POPULAR

Quote

I feel like I am much smarter than I used to be


I think you are confusing "intelligence" for "experience" or "common sense.

IQ points don't change throughout life short of brain damage lowering them. One might score a little higher depending on the test, or education. It was also shown that people from different socio-economic backgrounds scored differently on tests that seemed to take certain ideas as "common knowledge" that weren't really all that common.

Software engineers do have to be intelligent enough to comprehend numerous abstract concepts... generally be good at puzzle solving... creative along the line of developing workflow/processing techniques... and rather obviously be able to learn new languages.

It could be argued that many of those things are 'skills' not indicators of intelligence. It can be argued therefore that skills can be learned. But a person must have a mind that can learn things like this. Some people do, some people don't. That's just life.

And as you touched on they need traits such as perseverance to learn the new languages and not get demoralized and quit. As well as the willingness to crawl, then walk, then run, then compete in their chosen field. Much like body builder or figure skater. And much like those pursuits there will be many that start, some drop out, some are good enough to get by, some good enough to do well, and a very few who are amazing. Programming is no different.

We have an employee that has an amazing amount of skill at making everyone he talks to feel like they are the most important person in his life. I will never have that skill. Does that make me dumb? No. On the reverse side of that after 6 years of trying to teach him basic trouble shooting for our systems he has never made any progress. If a broken system came to life one time after he jumped up and down and spun in the chair then that is what he does every time. Does that make him dumb? No. Funny to watch perhaps... <LOL>

But lets be honest: Some people will always have a job that involves the phrase "Welcome to BigBoxStore." or "Do you want fries with that?" Its just a fact of life that not everyone is born with the same skillset, ability to learn new skills, same IQ.

Quote

But our society has come to venerate intelligence because of the great advances in science and technology.

There is nothing new about that. It was as true hundreds (even thousands) of years ago as it is today. The scientist who could develop gun powder or greek fire was much beloved. Before that the medicine man who understood which plants made the sick health was treated as a demi-god. "God made men, but Mr. Colt made them equal" is about technology of the time (guns) being revered.

Quote

It's almost like we replaced the old priesthoods and aristocracies with the idea of naturally smart people who rule the world.


Once we quit beating people with our fists for food and mating, it DID become survival of the smartest. Homo Sapien beat out Neanderthal for this very reason. The guy that can develop a better weapon system beats his enemy. They person that can solve his irrigation problem while his neighbor's crop whither is going to be able to pass his genes to a next generation. Moving a few hundred years that translates to: They guy that can make more money is the guy with better mating options opened to him. So whomever is smart enough to beat out his business rivals makes more money and will rule his world: Maybe that's the IT department, the corporation or the country.

Personally I don't see anything new in these arguments or in people or society in general. Wasn't it Plato that was quoted about fearing for the future because the kids of the next generation were softer and less respectful than his own?

Romans killing pagans. Christian crusades of the dark ages. Muslim jihad war to kill all infidels of the 21st century. Nothing changes. People still waging war over who as the best imaginary friend.

Plato, Socrates, da Vinci, Edison, Einstein, Hawking, Sarek, Spock - We have always admired intelligent people throughout the ages.

This is really little more than an observation of the human condition as it has always been.

This post has been edited by tlhIn`toq: 23 February 2012 - 10:04 AM

Was This Post Helpful? 5
  • +
  • -

#4 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

  • Suitor #2
  • member icon



Reputation: 9389
  • View blog
  • Posts: 35,264
  • Joined: 12-June 08

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:36 PM

Quote

But our society has come to venerate intelligence because of the great advances in science and technology


When did this happen? Did I miss the revolution when I was spending quality time in a locker with an atomic wedgie? Are the perpetual comments about stupid politicians and generals just a ironic joke that I never got?
Was This Post Helpful? 3
  • +
  • -

#5 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5578
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,931
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:40 PM

Then again smart isn't always smart.

Look at this guy that was smart enough to learn to do it all, but not smart enough to research if he actually WANTED to do it as a career before investing all that time, money and energy.
Was This Post Helpful? 2
  • +
  • -

#6 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

  • Programming Theoretician
  • member icon

Reputation: 4361
  • View blog
  • Posts: 12,180
  • Joined: 18-April 07

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:57 PM

I have said it once and I will say it again... anyone can become a programmer and do ok as a career. Those who truly become legendary in the field have a bit of a "born with it" ability to solve problems and think outside the box. Programming is part science and part creativity. Like many other sciences you have the scientists and you have those scientists who achieve greatness because they thought up the crazy stuff... Einstein, Newton etc.

There is an elitist attitude among computer programmers sometimes, but you know you get that with a lot of specialized fields. They may be intelligent in one they know but know jack shit about other things. A elitist in programming may a dumb ass in music (like me). Specialists often think of themselves as gods while in their domain of expertise, but I can tell you that they are not in other circles.

I once took a formal general logic and theory class where we talked about what it means to be smart and intelligent. What we came to understand is that those who are humble, ask questions and rationally think through a problem without prejudice or looking through some emotional lens are those who learn the most and become very intelligent.

Are programmers smart? Some are, some aren't. The same can be pretty much said for any field.

:)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 18 February 2012 - 02:58 PM

Was This Post Helpful? 4
  • +
  • -

#7 searcher920  Icon User is offline

  • New D.I.C Head

Reputation: 15
  • View blog
  • Posts: 44
  • Joined: 30-December 11

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 03:38 PM

"Once we quit beating people with our fists for food and mating, it DID become survival of the smartest. Homo Sapien beat out Neanderthal for this very reason. The guy that can develop a better weapon system beats his enemy. They person that can solve his irrigation problem while his neighbor's crop whither is going to be able to pass his genes to a next generation. Moving a few hundred years that translates to: They guy that can make more money is the guy with better mating options opened to him. So whomever is smart enough to beat out his business rivals makes m"

I think you have accepted the prevalent progressive mythology without wondering how much of it is backed up by logic and evidence. No one knows why Homo Sapiens survived and other hominids did not, and the reasons are probably varied. Were improvements in agriculture the result of smart guys seeing a better way, or did they result from happy accidents? Maybe both or neither, we were not there to see it happen.

And the guy who makes more money probably has a wife who also works and uses birth control. So there goes that theory.

The human race has not been evolving towards greater intelligence, as far as we know. Technology evolves, our brains do not.

There are many other things in your post you have not questioned. IQ may tend to be stable over time (but not nearly as stable as they used to think). But that stability does not necessarily mean that IQ is wired into the brain. We also don't know if IQ correlates with being a professional in science or technology.

Your co-worker who can't trouble shoot the systems might not have a low IQ. Maybe he just doesn't have the in depth knowledge of the system that would make trouble-shooting easy. Maybe he prefers to use his social skills to get ahead, since that's what always worked for him.

Lots of us became intellectual nerds mainly because social skills were too hard for us, not because we were born with superior brains.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#8 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5578
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,931
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 04:20 PM

View Postsearcher920, on 18 February 2012 - 04:38 PM, said:

And the guy who makes more money probably has a wife who also works and uses birth control. So there goes that theory.

Lots of us became intellectual nerds mainly because social skills were too hard for us, not because we were born with superior brains.


And you say *I* am making a lot of assumptions.


View Postsearcher920, on 18 February 2012 - 04:38 PM, said:

But that stability does not necessarily mean that IQ is wired into the brain.

Well it sure isn't wired to my left femur. Loss of my leg doesn't suddenly cause me to loose half my intellect.


View Postsearcher920, on 18 February 2012 - 04:38 PM, said:

We also don't know if IQ correlates with being a professional in science or technology.

As I previously stated there are also things I refer to as "traits" such as the desire to succeed, perseverance to get through training, motivation to set a goal and stick with it.

View Postsearcher920, on 18 February 2012 - 04:38 PM, said:

Your co-worker who can't trouble shoot the systems might not have a low IQ. Maybe he just doesn't have the in depth knowledge of the system that would make trouble-shooting easy.


Oh he desperately wants to learn it. Has tried for years. Wants more than anything to learn programming. He just can't seem to wrap his head around the concepts. The idea of dividing a problem in half, then one half in half again etc just escapes him. He just can't make the connections. He's not dumb. But he just doesn't connect with tech. And because there is no connection he just doesn't retain it. All the reading, all the in-house training is just gibberish without understanding. I'm the same with art appreciation. Doesn't make either of us stupid. Just not geared for certain things.
Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#9 searcher920  Icon User is offline

  • New D.I.C Head

Reputation: 15
  • View blog
  • Posts: 44
  • Joined: 30-December 11

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 05:06 PM

"Oh he desperately wants to learn it. Has tried for years. Wants more than anything to learn programming. He just can't seem to wrap his head around the concepts. The idea of dividing a problem in half, then one half in half again etc just escapes him. He just can't make the connections. He's not dumb. But he just doesn't connect with tech. "

When I started trying to learn the simplest concepts were baffling to me, just like they are to him. But I had already learned to be stubborn. Maybe you're right and this guy just isn't wired for logic, but I doubt it. He can always fall back on his social skills, so the stubborn determination might not be there. He says he desperately wants to learn, but how desperate is he really? I am just skeptical.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#10 searcher920  Icon User is offline

  • New D.I.C Head

Reputation: 15
  • View blog
  • Posts: 44
  • Joined: 30-December 11

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 05:14 PM

"Well it sure isn't wired to my left femur. Loss of my leg doesn't suddenly cause me to loose half my intellect."

More unquestioned materialist/progressive mythology. Yes a brain is necessary for intelligence, but that does not mean the brain is the cause of intelligence. We know that our attitudes and goals cause changes in the brain.

I think the brains we are all born with are more similar than different, and our personality and experiences are what really cause the apparent differences in intelligence.

Also, I have noticed that the "smart" guys have effective techniques for seeming much smarter than they are. For example, if a conversation turns to something they don't know about, they quickly change the subject to something they do know. They are much more interested in showing off their superior brain than in learning from other "less intelligent" people.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#11 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5578
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,931
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 05:17 PM

I think those that say " I can teach anyone to xyz " are being niave.

Some people have certain skills, or at least the ability to learn them or they don't.

Most people can learn basic swimming, but not everyone can compete.

I can draw stick figures that look like sticks. That's it.
I have never been able to learn to play an instrument, mostly because I can't hear the difference in notes. You can't learn to hear something right. If you are tone deaf then you are tone deaf.

You aren't going to teach the 4'6" guy to dunk a basketball. He simply lacks the physiognomy.

Nobody is ever going to teach my daughter to be a research chemist. Not going to happen. But I'll never to learn to sing like she does naturally.

Problem solving is a skill. Grasping abstract concepts is a skill. We can all do some of it to some degree. But not everyone can do it well enough to earn a living. Believing otherwise is just more of the BS that is causing trouble in this society: You can do anything you want. Bull. Be honest with children by age 15 and put them on the right track. You have no science skills but can sing. You have no singing talent but can solve mysteries. You cut class everyday to help out at the zoo so take up zoology.
Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#12 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5578
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,931
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 05:23 PM

At this point I think this has reached the "agree to disagree" point.

You have your beliefs with no real way to prove them.
I have mine, which are equally hard to prove or disprove.
We we're at a point where there isn't much more to say.
We are both right, and both wrong. Hurray, we both win.

Now I believe there is a hot plate of food waiting for me.
Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#13 searcher920  Icon User is offline

  • New D.I.C Head

Reputation: 15
  • View blog
  • Posts: 44
  • Joined: 30-December 11

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 05:49 PM

Yes I agree these things are hard to prove. It would take very long arguments and extensive research to make even a doubtful case for one side or the other, and none of us have time for that. Yes I agree that a tone-deaf person can't learn to sing and a short person can't be a professional basket ball player. But most of us are somewhere in the middle and we can choose to develop or neglect various skills.

Music is a good example for me because I definitely question the inborn talent myth. Yes you need the ability to hear pitch -- but most of us have that. I always loved music but got busy with work and had no time to practice, and whatever "talent" I had mostly disappeared. Then I got back to it and started working hard and now I have some "talent." They have even shown that practicing music causes certain areas of the brain to grow.

So much of this results from our desires and our goals. I was an artist when I was young and didn't care about science or technology. But then for various reasons I became interested and did a lot of reading and thinking and I am sure that caused my brain to change and become more logical.

I am not someone who can glance at code and instantly know what it does and how it works. I have to become immersed in it and step through it. Does that mean I have less programming talent, or does it just mean I have my own way of working?

Anyhow, I brought up this subject, even though it's hard to prove one way or the other, because the progressive myth of intelligence is very much alive where I work. This is something I have questioned all my life, and now I am surrounded by it.

"Grasping abstract concepts is a skill. We can all do some of it to some degree. But not everyone can do it well enough to earn a living. Believing otherwise is just more of the BS that is causing trouble in this society: You can do anything you want. Bull. Be honest with children by age 15 and put them on the right track."

Yes of course I agree, it is a mistake to expect every kid to go to college. But is that because some have more innate brain power than others, or because some have learned to like books and others would rather be doing something more active or social. We don't really know.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#14 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

  • holy shitin shishkebobs
  • member icon




Reputation: 6180
  • View blog
  • Posts: 10,681
  • Joined: 28-September 07

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 08:24 PM

I, for one, am a huge friggin' moron.
Was This Post Helpful? 3
  • +
  • -

#15 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

  • Admiral Fancy Pants
  • member icon

Reputation: 5364
  • View blog
  • Posts: 27,325
  • Joined: 10-May 07

Re: Are programmers smart?

Posted 18 February 2012 - 08:28 PM

Mostly programming is just glorified way of describing having a good memory, understanding logic, & being able to spoon feed humans with a point-&-click feeder pellet.
Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

  • (10 Pages)
  • +
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • Last »