Book Review: "You Are Not Expected to Understand This" How 26 Lines of Code Changed the World - Torie Bosch


Book cover. Lines of code hover on a blue background.A superb book! It traces the origins of 26 facets of modern life so that you can understand the code which underpins them.

There's only a smattering of actual code you need to read - most of it is constrained to gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations. Although I got a bit of a shock in the 2nd essay when I was confronted by ξ3 < exp(ΔE/τ)! Thankfully the rest of the chapter does a good job of explaining it and why it is important.

There are some amazing confessionals from people who, arguably, made the world a little worse with their creations. It is a pity the author of the Morris worm refuses to discuss his creation though.

A few of the essays are a little credulous when it comes to grand claims - the BitCoin essay is laughably naïve - but these are relatively short sketches which will hopefully drive you to read more about their subject.

It does do a good job of pointing to papers I'd never heard of, like "Hacking the Cis-team: Transgender Citizens and the Early Digital State" which describes how the binary of machines was used to rigidly enforce the gender binary. Sadly, it suffers a little from constantly using Wikipedia and Britannica for references - I'd much rather see source material.

There's an excellent range of information in here. It perfectly demonstrates that, of course, it isn't the lines of code which change the world - it's the people who dare to dream about a new paradigm. Not everyone emerges from the book a hero, but they all made an impact.

Verdict
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