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Will.i.am is giving up music to learn computer programming

Many aspiring producers admire Will.i.am for his musical success. He admires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.


It's in all the news so I don't know which is the primary source to credit, but apparently Mr. am is turning away from music and towards computer programming. Yes, not just using Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton or whatever it is he makes his hits with (Emu SP1200 perhaps?), but actually writing the code the computer runs on.

This is a topic I know something about because as well as being a fairly average musician I am also a fairly average coder. Yes, I can write a song, but probably not a very good one. And I can write code. Probably not very good code but it works, mostly.

So in a sense I admire Will. (I'm not sure if his first name ends on the 'l' or on the dot). Coding is a challenge that is every bit as big as music. It's easy to strum a few chords on a guitar, but devilishly difficult to create music that people will pay to hear (without getting drunk at the same time). It's easy to write a 'hello world' script, but very hard to match up to the genius that a top coder will apply to a tricky programming problem.

I also admire Will.i.am for making a positive statement for substance, to which I am sure he will bring his flair for style [explanatory link].

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It is a wise person however who properly understands the difference between computer science and computer programming. If you can see how the halting problem lives in a rather different space to the use of regular expressions, then you will understand what I mean.

To me, coding is a means to an end. I can make my website do something useful without having to spend a lot of money on it (or any money at all). I do enjoy it to a certain extent - it gets my head to a place where life's problems and irritations fade away into the far background. And when my project works, there's a sense of satisfaction. But I have to say that I don't enjoy it even a tenth as much as playing my musical instruments, writing a song, or playing around with an arrangement in my DAW. Perhaps I'm not a natural-born coder. Maybe Will.i.am is.

My feeling is that there are a lot more coders who wish they could become musicians than musicians yearning to become coders. But there are a lot of people who lack any particular direction in life who look up to Will.i.am for his undeniable (even if you don't like it) sense of style. If these people could come to see coding as 'cool', then we all as a society stand to benefit. (As long as they write 'good code', but that's another issue entirely.)

I can't sum it up better than one newspaper's probable misquote of Will.i.am, but it gets right to the point...

"The world needs geeks, not musicians!"

I'm going to say "Good luck" to Will. It'll be interesting to see how he gets on.

P.S. I may be exaggerating a little to say that Will.i.am is 'giving up' music. He's going to take a computer science course at the California Institute Of The Arts. It looks quite interesting...

By David Mellor Thursday March 14, 2013

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