Monday, December 23, 2013

Simple Science: My Programming Languages Research

This post is the first in our Simple Science Descriptions series of pieces written with the Up-Goer Five Text Editor restricting writers to the ten hundred most used words in English. It's harder than you might think! Send your entries (preferably under 350 words) to jeanyang [at] mit [dot] edu.


I make it easier for people to tell computers what to do. I think about how people want to use computers and what computers need people to tell them. The people I have in mind are ones trained to use computers. In my perfect world, Ms Programmer doesn't need to tell computers much and the computers can do everything right while still running fast.

Here is how I spend my time. First, I come up with a new way Ms Programmer can tell the computer what to do. Then I think about why this way is the right way. In doing this, I sometimes have to think about what other people have shown is possible to make a computer do. Then I come up with reasons so other people also believe this way is the right way. To find these reasons, I have to both think hard and also build things. It can be hard to change minds!

I focus on ways of telling computers what to do that seem like they might force the computer to do too much work. I like thinking about these because they often let Ms Programmer do less work. The problem is that sometimes the computer can't finish all of the work. To make the new ways possible, I think about how to get the computer to do less work. In my work, I am helping Ms Programmer make sure things do not get shown to people who should not see them. Right now, Ms Programmer has to do a lot of work to guard Mr Privacy, remembering all the time where everything comes from and where everything is going. With my new way, Ms Programmer can say once how she wants Mr Privacy to be guarded and trust the computer to do it for her. I look at how to make this possible in a way that is easy for Ms Programmer and not too hard for the computer.

- Jean Yang, Ph.D. student in computer science

1 comment:

  1. Interesting idea! But I wonder, is a piece of writing that uses only "easy" words really easier to read and to understand than one that uses fewer but more meaning-carrying words? Maybe you could also show how you would write your ideas using your usual wording.