sapir-whorf and the compiler

I often catch myself thinking of the compiler or interpreter as a person with a particular thought process. I sometimes say, ‘It’s not thinking the way I expect it to think.’

What does this word, this grammar, this syntax really mean to you? I feel like the compiler is an alien whose language I am trying to learn, like in Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life,’ a story that takes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to its natural conclusion.

In college I would muse how French the French majors were. How German the German, how Japanese the Japanese, etc. This doesn’t prove Sapir-Whorf, as there is a degree of self-selection going on in terms of choosing majors: students who are French-y to begin with will choose French anyway.

But assuming it were true, and if I were to do the same—if I were to take Sapir-Whorf to its natural conclusion—would learning computer languages turn swathes of my mind into a compiler? Is that what we’re doing in our coding classes: turning into compilers?

Or: are we turning machines into us? Are we learning their language, or are they learning ours?

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