ELS Editions

8th European Lisp Symposium

April 20-21, 2015
Goldsmiths University, London, UK

Richard P. Gabriel

Bio

Richard P. “Dick” Gabriel overcame a hardscrabble, working-class upbringing in the dreadfully industrialized and famously polluted Merrimack Valley of eastern Massachusetts to become one of the few genuine Renaissance men to emerge from the OO milieu: scholar, scientist, poet, performance artist, entrepreneur, musician, essayist, and yes, hacker....

Though somewhat less well-endowed of the effortless intellectual incandescence, easy charisma, and raw animal magnetism of so many of his generation of future object-oriented luminaries, he was able, with discipline, determination, and hard work, to survive the grueling demands of elite, first-tier academic institutions such as MIT, Stanford and UIUC to earn his PhD and become a leader among the burgeoning legions of Lisp-dom during the early nineties.

However, after a series of the inevitable, endemic startup setbacks that the Internet boom all too often left in its wake, Gabriel grew weary of the cold, cloistered, celibate tedium of engineering culture, and fell willing prey to the lure of the exotic social and intellectual stimulation and blandishments that only the Liberal Arts could offer.

And they, in turn, embraced this gruff emissary from the exotic, intimidating, but newly chic world of technology. Gabriel’s dissonant, desiccated, plainchant blank verse was dark, disturbing, distant, candid, calculating, and desperate, at once florid yet monochromatic. It could “cons-up” a soul in a single haunting, searing stanza and remand it remorselessly, insouciantly to the heap in the next. It was like nothing that could be heard on the stale, staid, inbred Writers’ Workshop circuits of those times.

But then, as always, poetry alone seldom pays the bills, so the prodigal poet, like a salmon to spawn, returned to his object-oriented roots, proselytizing a newfound artistic sensibility to an aesthetically impoverished community.

His technological audiences, who had subsisted on bland, austere stylistic pabulum born of their collective status as a poor stepchild of mathematics, physics, and engineering, embraced his audacious set-piece guerilla performances and this novel aesthetic dimension in a manner akin to that in which Medieval European palates had embraced the infusion of spices from the East Indies.

His considerable successes in synthesizing the “Two Cultures” in this software setting will likely stand as his enduring legacy.

Gabriel lives in Redwood City, CA, and works for International Business Machines Corporation as a research helper. He likes to unwind by writing a poem every day.

Talk — Making Creativity: Software as Creative Partner

Programming, software development, and software engineering: We are taught to solve puzzles and do what we’re told. We carry these lessons into our jobs and careers without deliberation. Old fashioned software engineering aims to make no mistakes; agile aims to render programmers compliant, and commands them make money for their bosses. For the past year I’ve been exploring what creativity means during the act of writing, and I’ve been doing it by constructing a software partner that acts as a scientific engine of discovery — a partner that displays a flair for the strange that even the most daring poets can rarely match. I don’t have requirements, I don’t have specifications, and I normally don’t have a plan much beyond a guess. If my program doesn’t surprise me, I cry “failure!” and lament.

I’ll explore what programming is, how software can act as a collaborator, show you how the agile practices are like training wheels, and explain how a program can astound.

All in Lisp, of course.

Back to the symposium programme.