The Color of Code

Code is a set of instructions written in a programming language that tells a computer what to do.  For example, Android is the name of the system software, the code, that runs on close to a billion devices that were sold in the last twelve months. 

Linus Torvalds, the person most responsible for the Android software, once wrote in an email message, "Talk is cheap. Show me the code." That cuts to the heart of the matter, doesn't it? It's kind of like Jesus saying, "Show me the coin," to people who had asked if it was proper to pay taxes to Caesar.

The punchline to that story is Jesus saying, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and render unto God the things that are God's."

Jesus said that to avoid getting trapped into saying something subversive towards Roman rule. Can you imagine saying anything more subversive than, "Render unto God the things that are God's?"

What is the color of code? That question makes absolutely no sense.

Color has to do with visual perception, and the wavelength of light that enters our eyeballs.

Code has nothing to do with the wavelength of light. Instructions could be written to process light of different wavelengths, but the light would be data on which the code was operating, not the code itself.

And code certainly has nothing to do with "color charge" which refers to a property of quarks and gluons that pertains to the strong attractive force in the realm of particle physics.

So why ask, "What is the color of code?"

It makes no sense. In contrast, it does make sense, in a way, to ask, "What color is God's skin?" Even though God is a spiritual Being, so to speak, and does not have skin, it makes sense to ask that question to make a point about how stupid it is for white supremacists to get off on the color of their skin.

It is true that there are text editors that automatically highlight different elements in the code different colors, but this is only to make it easier for the programmer to read the code.  It has nothing to do with the meaning of the code, what the instructions are telling the computer to do.  

For example, the instructions in the routers that make up the Internet could be programmed simply to move packets of information from the source to the destination as quickly as possible, or the routers could be programmed to examine the content of the packets in order for some security agency or marketing analyst to monitor what anyone is communicating to anyone else. Of course, the software would have to be open source for any interested citizen to be able to read what the code was doing.  The color of the code would say nothing about the purpose of the instructions.

So, there is no sense at all to ask about the color of code. No point to it at all. 

Sometimes, maybe, when one thinks outside the box, there is nothing outside the box. No sense. No point. Zero.

Not exactly zero. If one is thinking outside the box, and there is nothing outside the box, then the only thing that would be outside the box would be one's thoughts.

Wildfires are raging, the oceans are rising, and self-driving cars are coming.  What are we going to do?


John Kintree
September 2, 2015