“Behind this mask there is more than just flesh and blood. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.” — V in ‘V for Vendetta’ by Alan Moore
The idea of code as a language is such a beautiful concept. It is bits… they do not exist in the ‘real’ world and yet a computer understands this abstract symphony of ‘0’s and ‘1’s so well. A computer may it be your smartphone, PC, smartwatch or any other electronic device is a dumb machine, the underlying code is the intelligence. It is not the brain which exists as hardware (cpu, microprocessors, whatever you wish to call it), a code is rather a set of detailed instructions to this brain.
How to make lemonade
If I ask you to make lemonade, this is probably what you would do;
Step 1: Go to the fridge.
Step 2: Get lemons and cold water.
Step 3: If there is no cold water, open the freezer and get ice.
Step 4: Get an empty glass.
Step 5: Squeeze the lemon in the glass, pour cold water or water and ice.
Step 6: Add sugar to taste. Some of you may want salt too.. that’s gross.
Step 7: Lemonade is ready.
What you are probably doing is this;
Step 1: Recognizing whether you are in the house, what a house means, the concept of 3 Dimensional space.
Step 2: Recalling the concept of a lemon, that it is citrus in nature, a generic shape of the lemon, acceptable coloration, where it might be located in the house.
Step 3: Knowing/guessing that it is in the fridge because a fridge is a device that increases the shelf life of products and recalling having kept lemons in the fridge sometime last week (this would involve knowing the concept of time… that is a separate discussion).
Step 4: Locating the position of the fridge.
Step 5: Moving towards the fridge. This involves a lot of obstacle tackling learnt during childhood.
Step 6: Recalling how a fridge looks generally.
Step 7: Looking at the handle of the fridge.
Step 8: Recalling from memory the concept of a handle, maybe a lever.
Step 9: Recalling how to grip the handle.
Step 10: Gripping the handle firmly.
Step 11: Applying force.
(We haven’t even found lemons yet!)
Each step can be further broken down into a detailed set of instructions that might fill up an entire library. Doesn’t it make you wonder how sophisticated a human brain is and how all this feels effortless. You might want to admire the human brain when you look at a lemon the next time. This could be a lot more detailed, but you get the idea now. Making lemonade is an extremely difficult task for a robot/computer.
This intelligence is imbibed in a computer by some of us through typing in these set of instructions with meticulous detail (or sometimes making a robot that writes these details). This set of instructions is referred to as an 'algorithm' in computer jargon. It is difficult, and in a lot of ways extremely fulfilling. Knowing how to code is indeed a super power and I wanted to acquire it. More on this in the next post.
P.S. Here's a recipe for lemonade.