RE: 'Singularity Realism' - A few thoughts

From: Mark Waser (
Date: Tue Mar 16 2004 - 18:55:33 MST

Ah good. I think we're getting somewhere . . . .

> Write me a function that returns a function in XML alone (no external
> code allowed). For that matter, write me a function that does any
> computation at all in XML alone. This is why I find this discussion
> so amazingly strange.

Clearly this can't be done. XML is a data-definition language. I'm not
making XML a programming language. I'm making a programming language which
is XML-compliant. My point is that if you make a language XML-compliant
there is a large set of standards, tools, thought, infrastructure, and
excitement that you could benefit from.

> It is an argument that a language that can only
> encapsulate data is somehow better than real programming languages.

No, it's an argument that a language that causes programmers to think of a
program as data as well as program is better than a language that, ALL OTHER

> It is an argument stuck at the level of language syntax. If you want
> to write the text of programs in XML I will think you rather strange.

 Most people do . . . . :-)

> But please do not confuse text with actual functionality or utility or
> expressive power.

 I'm not making that confusion. What I'm saying is that if you take ANY
language and make it's syntax XML-compliant, there a benefits that you will

 = = = = =

> Lisp is as efficient in its compiled form as C with a bit of care. It
> is quite scalable. To argue that it is not would be effectively to
> argue that no languages are scalable as every other language can be
> expressed in Lisp. That is rather a lot of power.

 The compiled code of ANY compiled programming language is as efficient as
any other if it is used with a bit/a lot of care, compiled well, AND if it
uses the same algorithms. There is, however, a huge difference between
compiled code and functions that are declared at run-time unless your
environment takes the time out from execution to compile those. Further,
there is a huge difference in the speed and scalability of data access and
lookup methods. LISP innately causes the programmer to look at everything
as a list. Would you rather look-up your first name in an ordered list of
names or in a balanced b-tree? Yes, the balanced b-tree could be expressed
LOGICALLY in list form but the tree-balancing operations required during
addition and deletion would not be as optimized (scalable) as with a raw,
specially designed data structure. The problem that I have with virtually
every LISP environment is the same problem that I have with most other
programming environments. It tries to - - nay, insists that it - - do
EVERYTHING, including things that it isn't good at.

= = = = =

 Clearly, a lot of our disagreement is because you're just envisioning the
raw XML spec and I'm envisioning my dream language and environment that,
among other things, happens to be both XML-compliant and capable of some of
the things it is capable of BECAUSE it is XML-compliant. Most of these
additional things are not due to XML itself, in particular, as much as what
can be leveraged from developing a new language to exploit the social
environment surrounding XML. The answer to your question
> Yes, I know you could write XML that looked sort of like
> the syntactic structure of functional programs. But so what?
is that I believe that it could lead to a pretty open environment where
program pieces are modular and swappable and where program design could be
machine-assisted and eventually fully automated. The .NET framework has
created an environment where programs written in different languages are
more modular and swappable but there's a lot further to go. Regarding
programs as data - - with a wider variety of data structures/operations to
allow for more efficient, scalable operations than the current single
data-structure/method data languages like LISP, PROLOG, etc. - - will open
the door for all sorts of things. I'm not saying that XML is the best, I'm
saying that I think that the most probable path to where I'd like to get to
is through XML.

     - Mark
> "That would be a good idea."
> -- Gandhi [when asked what he thought of western civilisation]

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