Manifesto: Code as an alternative to Mathematics

For sure, many of the natural phenomena as well as logical arguments are best described using Mathematics. This is not merely because Mathematics is precise, concise, expressive, and powerful, but also because there is a plethora of mathematical tools of analysis (Probability, Calculus, Statistics, Linear Algebra, Number Theory, and the likes) readily available and anyone looking to model (and solve) their problem, more often than not, can easily formulate it within the confines of modern Mathematics (or sometimes invent new mathematics while trying). Electromagnetism, Newtonian Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, and conceivably every description of reality is both formulated, and extensively studied using Mathematics. As such, it wouldn’t be insane to state that any aspiring natural philosopher would undoubtedly be remiss in not acquainting themselves with modern Mathematics.

Having said that, it must also be acknowledged that Mathematics is hard. In fact, very much so. Calculus can be counter-intuitive, Analysis can be pedantic, the imaginative visualization capability required for Linear Algebra is really non-trivial, and Probabilistic way of thinking can really take some effort in one’s part. Without a formal and disciplined curriculum, an aspiring philosopher will find it very difficult to grasp the intuition behind physical laws that are expressed in Mathematical forms. And, in fact, even with the proper schooling, fields such as Quantum Mechanics have equations that simply cannot be parsed in a non-Mathematical framework. Is a non-Mathematician then forever doomed to not understand the elegance in natural and physical laws? Is Mathematics a must even if one were only trying to get a small intuition on how our world works? I believe not.

Mathematics is a language. And while it is a language best suited to study physical laws in, it isn’t the only option we have. Another language, which is formal in nature and is untainted by inherent ambiguities, is Code. I use Code as a synonym for Turing Complete programming languages because I find it to be ubiquitously colloquial and conveying generally the same meaning as intended. Indeed, Code which is somewhat procedural in nature, entirely different than the declarative construct of Mathematics, is not at all unsuitable to develop intuition about many phenomena previously only defined on Mathematical terms. It is easier, accessible, and has an added benefit that Mathematics simply does not have: Code is slowly becoming a universal language.

While I don’t have any official statistics, the number of people who know at least one programming language, if not already, will pretty soon surpass the number of people who know undergrad level mathematics. This is, like I said, partly driven by the fact that Coding is much more accessible, and partly by the fact that it’s becoming more lucrative in this day and age. Notwithstanding the reason, the universality of Code as a language presents the educators with a new opportunity: to use it as extensively as possible in as many fields as possible.

I truly believe that Coding can adequately be used to teach difficult subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Electronics, Economics, and so much more. Methods of sampling and simulations can easily model probability distributions and calculus can also be modeled by small time-step computations. Just these two small approximations can make many subjects instantly accessible. Similar tricks to approximate other Mathematical tools can undoubtedly be designed or discovered. The end result, I believe, has the potential to become glorious!

Some ending remarks must also be established here. Like I have already said in the beginning, there is simply no better language to study physical laws in than Mathematics, at least for now. My central argument here is merely the fact that Coding, since it is becoming so ubiquitous, and has the advantage of being an unambiguously formal language for the masses, can be used to approximate these laws and impart some intuition to the students. The benefit, I believe, is that with an accessible introduction to these subjects, students can be motivated to pursue Mathematics (which indeed requires a healthy dosage of motivation to court persistently).