The tweet says it all:
“I have personally found that LISP is unbelievably productive if you’re willing to invest in the 600-month learning curve.”-Paul Ford
Now Mr. Ford is probably exaggerating by a factor of five: I’ll go with Peter Norvig1 and say that Lisp is unbelievably productive if you’re willing to invest in the 120 month (ten year!) learning curve. But exaggeration or no, doesn’t this seem damning?
Somehow, I think we’re “grading on a curve.” We can learn to be “unbelievably productive” In Lisp after a decade of study, but that “unbelievably productive” is a different kind of productive than “whip together a web app using Ember.js” productive.
In my anecdotal experience, many supposedly “advanced” languages (like members of the Lisp family, but also Haskell, Factor, PureScript, and just about anything not mainstream) suffer from the high expectations set for them by enthusiasts.
This makes me wonder: What happens if we invest ten years in learning Lisp? Wonderful things, we get a wizard’s hat. If we invest ten years in PureScript I expect we’ll be dreaming of fizz buzz with semigroups and apply.
Either way, we’ll be better after ten years studying something. But perhaps not all somethings are created equal?
What language has the property that after ten years’ study, you are the most incredibly productive? What language has the learning curve that stays steep, longer?
I laugh at the joke about spending 600 months becoming incredibly productive in Lisp. But then I wonder: If I keep studying the things I’m studying today, will I be on my way to becoming incredibly productive? Or will I flatten out long before a decade passes?