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Paul Chiusano: The Future of Software, the End of Apps, and Why UX Designers Should Care About Type Theory

Full Title:: Paul Chiusano: The Future of Software, the End of Apps, and Why UX Designers Should Care About Type Theory

one of the best articulations of problem/desire for malleable software!

Highlights first synced by Readwise March 9th, 2022

This essay is a call to cast aside the broken machine metaphor and ultimately end the tyranny of applications. Applications can and ultimately should be replaced by programming environments, explicitly recognized as such, in which the user interactively creates, executes, inspects and composes programs. In this model, interaction with the computer is fundamentally an act of creation, the creative act of programming, of assembling language to express ideas, access information, and automate tasks. And software presents an opportunity to help humanity harness and channel “our vast imaginations, humming away, charged with creative energy”.


We artificially limit the potential of this incredible technology by reserving a tiny, select group of people (programmers) to use its power build applications with largely fixed sets of actions (and we now put these machines on the internet too and call them “web applications”), and whose behaviors are not composable with other programs. Software let us escape the tyranny of the machine, yet we keep using it to build more prisons for our data and functionality!


New highlights added March 10th, 2022 at 11:13 PM

And two thousand years ago, most of the population was illiterate and arithmetic was considered too difficult for the average person, yet now we teach kids these things in elementary school. The truth is, we don’t really know how many people might program if given a learnable programming environment and programming were reduced to its exhilarating, creative essence. I worry we have raised generations of programmers who are simply very good at tolerating bullshit


We essentially have a situation in which these larger market players own a significant portion of the network effects on the web. It would be preferable if ownership of these network effects were transferred to the public domain and businesses were forced to compete on their ideas and cleverness in describing these ideas in software, rather than competing as they do now on how well they can coax users into entering various walled gardens and keep them there with lock-in and high switching costs. With a unified programming environment spanning the web (I’ll say more about this in another post), we could see these transaction costs and switching costs drop to nearly zero and a radical democratization of the internet market as ownership of these network effects is transferred to the public domain.


Any sufficiently advanced user-facing program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of a real programming language and type system.


Type systems provide a striking, elegant solution to a problem that UX designers now solve in more ad hoc ways. These ad hoc methods don’t scale and can never match what is possible when guided by an actual type system and the programming environment to go with it.

The work that remains is more around how to build meaningful, sensitive, real-time interfaces to the typechecker and integrate it within a larger programming environment supporting a mixture of graphical and textual program elements. Note that the richer the type system, the more mileage we get out of this approach.


New highlights added April 29th, 2022 at 7:50 PM

The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures… Yet the program construct, unlike the poet’s words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. […] The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.

Fred Brooks