back to article Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe

Close on the heels of Marc Andreessen's anti-colonialism comments about India, a second billionaire Silicon Valley VC has exploded his ego all over the internet. But whereas Andreessen's offensive comments were restricted to a 140-character tweet, Vinod Khosla has written over 5,000 words to explain why kids should learn …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternatively : Why shakespeare is more important than coding..:-)

  2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    I̶t̶ i̶s̶ a̶ t̶r̶u̶t̶h̶ u̶n̶i̶v̶e̶r̶s̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ a̶c̶k̶n̶o̶w̶l̶e̶d̶g̶e̶d̶,̶ t̶h̶a̶t̶ a̶ s̶i̶n̶g̶l̶e̶ m̶a̶n̶ i̶n̶ p̶o̶s̶s̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ o̶f̶ a̶ g̶o̶o̶d̶ f̶o̶r̶t̶u̶n̶e̶,̶ m̶u̶s̶t̶ b̶e̶ i̶n̶ w̶a̶n̶t̶ o̶f̶ a̶ w̶i̶f̶e̶.̶

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Silicon Valley VC in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of lessons in humanity.

    With apologies to Jane Austen

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      @ Fruit and Nutcase: Well done old chap.

      See icon.

    2. Mark 85

      Re: Literature

      'He's a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.' --- Lord Darlington

      No apologies here, Oscar Wilde described him best.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Literature

        Indeed Mark 85. Indeed and there are many just like him in all walks of life.

        1. frank ly

          Re: Literature

          I think she'd smile with approval.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Literature

        In all walks of life indeed, there seem to be many who believe that their own little world of requirements and preference should apply to everyone.

        "What did you buy that phone you idiot"

        "Don't buy that car, they are shite"

        Because they are the authority on everything, apparently.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          Re: Literature

          I enjoy language, literature, history and art, which enhances my understanding of fellow humans. I admire the poet's skill in going to the heart of the matter in very few words.

          I enjoy mathematics, science, technology, and coding. These expand my skills in logical reasoning and thinking in more than a mere 3 dimensions. They also teach me more about how the physical world may work. I admire the coder's skill to go to the heart of the problem in a few statements.

          I am not a good enough writer to make a living that way, but I am a good enough coder to teach others its joys.

          I still need both coding and literature to feel remotely complete.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays, but through writing code to make programs.

    I am surprised that the Register does not think that is a valid use of my time.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      "My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays, but through writing code to make programs ... I am surprised that the Register does not think that is a valid use of my time." -- Bahboh

      If that's indicative of your grasp of (a) comprehension and (b) logic, I hope I never have to come across any of your code.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "If that's indicative of your grasp of (a) comprehension and (b) logic, I hope I never have to come across any of your code." John H Woods

        I replied to an article entitled "Coding is more important than Shakespeare", stating that I prefer coding.

        If your reply stating that that shows a lack of comprehension or logic is indicative of your grasp of (a) comprehension and (b) logic, I hope I never have to come across any of your code.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          "I replied to an article entitled "Coding is more important than Shakespeare", stating that I prefer coding." -- Bahboh

          I agree that those are the first words of the title, but its meaning is altered by including the phrase after the comma (just like this sentence).

          You stated: "My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays, but through writing code to make programs." That's absolutely fab, I'm glad for you and completely understand where you're coming from. In fact, I doubt anybody here would criticise you for that. But, more pertinently, the article does not imply such criticism, so your response to it is at best irrelevant (like saying says "I'm a vegan" when someone asks if there's a doctor in the house) and at worst a misinterpretation of the argument it contains. That, in your original comment, confirmed by your misquotation of the title in this one, is the reason I question your comprehension.

          Then you say "I am surprised that the Register does not think that is a valid use of my time." Now where do you get that from? Even if you agree with VK that all literature lessons should be replaced with coding lessons, you cannot sensibly claim that people who reject this premise must think that coding is not a valid use of anybody's time. This is why I impugn your grasp of logic.

    2. itzman
      Paris Hilton

      Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

      That rather misses the point.

      Faced with the inevitability of personal mortality, why not just get it over with and top yourself now, to save the bother of having to live out a life that will in the end logically be completely meaningless?

      The whole point of the Arts and the so called humanities is to explore the emotional reasons why we choose to go on living, and in what way we choose to live and what goals we pursue, whereas the whole purpose of the creative technical and scientific arts is to help us achieve those goals.

      To put it poetically, your heart tells you where you want to go, but your head tells you how best to get there.

      This is reflected politically in Left/Right politics which are broadly, in the case if the Left, aspirational, emotional, reflecting a desire to have a society somewhat other than it is, and the Right, which says 'well ok, that's all very nice but, to get there we need practical solutions to practical problems, not airy fairy lefty nonsense'.

      Whether you feel that a person should be dedicated to exploring the emotional realms or dedicated entirely to the exploration of practical common sense is of course another emotional issue only you can answer for yourself :-)

      1. Tom Womack

        Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

        That's the point of reading books. Which you can do happily whatever else you do with your life, and which you will find yourself with a great deal more comfort to do if you have a well-paid career in computing.

        Doing a liberal arts degree is expressing a very unusual opinion as to the best way to spend the price of a decent BMW; the difference between reading the books in order to write two essays a week on them, and reading the books because it's the evening and that's what you do in the evening, is not worth that much.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

          >That's the point of reading books. Which you can do happily whatever else you do with your life,

          Or you can learn technical skills on the job, paid for by an employer, and get a leg up on what is important in life early on.

          HR Motto: "Hire for attitude, train for skills."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

        "Faced with the inevitability of personal mortality, why not just get it over with and top yourself now, to save the bother of having to live out a life that will in the end logically be completely meaningless?" - itzman

        If reading Shakespeare is what gives your life meaning, you need to get out more and talk to some living people.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

          It is a not a waste of educational resources teaching arts and literature as well as STEM. If you're not taught the basics in each subject how can you tell what the best subject for you to specialise in is?

          Later on in your career you might need skills outside of coding. You might also need an insight into the human condition because you are, after all, human.

          Churning out coders for self-absorbed Silly Valley VCs might be good for him, but not for society as a whole.

          1. skeptical i

            Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

            re: Dan 55 and "Later on in your career you might need skills outside of coding."

            I'd change "might" to "will undoubtedly", if the past decade or so of industry slice-and-ice is any indication; no matter what you know or how well you perform, jobs will move overseas or otherwise disappear, careers will abruptly halt, and "reinventing oneself" (back when I was a boy this was called "job-hopping", now it's a feature and not a bug) is what keeps food on the table. Learn a little bit of everything, learn how to learn/ think/ analyze/ problem-solve, and any job-specific training will (should) more or less take care of itself. Employers truly looking out for a company's best interests will hire for attitude, knowing that training (for the job and how this company specifically does it) needs to happen anyway. (This from a creaky grey curmudgeon who says "kids these days" more than I ever thought I would, so plz to consider the source.)

            1. MyffyW Silver badge

              Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

              @skeptical_i there are few times, personal vanity being what it is, that I see something and think "I wish I'd written that" but you did it there, hun.

        2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

          Apparently the Shakespeare monkey typewriter experiment produces code!

      3. amanfromarse

        Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays


        Your Left/Right comments, thinly-veiled self-aggrandising bollocks.

        1. LucreLout

          Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays


          Your Left/Right comments, thinly-veiled self-aggrandising bollocks.

          Yup. I mean, since when have the left ever been aspirational?!

    3. KeithR

      "I am surprised that the Register does not think that is a valid use of my time."

      It is valid.

      It's just not "creative".

    4. eesiginfo

      My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays, but through writing code to make programs.

      You are completely missing the point (a fact perhaps indicating that your coding may never truly match the needs of people).

      Learning to code will be an ideal career path for certain people (with the mindset).

      Learning about the rich tapestry of humanity and how they interact with each other, will be ideal for everybody.

      As for the Economist being more relevant than history (what?)

      If some of these so called leaders had studied more history, humanity might stop making the same mistakes over and over again eg. Iraq war and the aftermath (but the list is endless).

    5. Kurt Meyer

      @Bahboh Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

      Bahboh - This might be a good time for you to remember the first rule of holes.

      "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

    6. raving angry loony

      Bahboh writes "My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays, but through writing code to make programs."

      Which only goes to show that you've have utterly, completely, and perhaps even ironically missed the point. This isn't about your creativity. It's not about you at all. This is about understanding a large body of concepts that makes our society what it is today. Concepts that most certainly aren't embodied in any code. A body of concepts that this particular VC rich guy evidently doesn't consider at all important because they don't make him money today.

  4. Matthew Taylor

    Success myopia - like it!

    That was a great piece of writing. It's high time rich Silicon Valley TED talk bores had their balloons popped.

    1. bri

      Re: Success myopia - like it!

      I find a lot of TED talks quite interesting. I don't think that it deserves such a disparaging view.

      Yes, they may be sometimes myopic (or boring), but it so happens that people broaden their views by slowly crunching through the myopic (or intensely specific) stuff. No one has 10 000ft high view from start.

      1. Matthew Taylor

        Re: Success myopia - like it!

        You're right of course, there are some interesting ideas presented at TED, But there's also a certain smugness in the air which I find unappealing. The underlying message always seems to be one of self congratulation, which makes me suspicious that the audience are there to feel good about themselves, rather than learn anything. Not that there's anything wrong with feeling good about oneself, but TED claims to be about ideas, whereas it seems to me to be primarily about mutual pats on the back.

        1. L05ER


          You aren't viewing to learn either... You're viewing it to judge them with your own brand of smug superiority.

        2. Useless User

          Re: Success myopia - like it!

          The TED pest really is about what Evgeny Morozov so well describes in his anti-solutionist "To save everything, click here!". Will the lobotomised self-congratulatory crowd ever read it? Last thing I heard is that books and music are lame, a waste of precious time - to make money and shop.


        3. bri

          Re: Success myopia - like it! (@Matthew Taylor)

          I see. However, when you actually achieve something, it's OK to be happy about it, which may look as smugness from the outside. It's natural.

          On the other hand, if you want to learn something (and there are quite a few things I wouldn't know without viewing some TED talks), it really helps to have an open mind. Either one's learning or judging. I prefer the former as usually I view talks outside my expertise, so I don't have the chops for the latter. But if the idea looks sound I don't care about the messenger.

          which brings me to the original article - Mr. Khosla's ideas seem deeply flawed, biggest of which is the idea that you can model society without actual data (life experience, humanities) and that those models are sufficient (cf. the paragraph with Kafka mentioned). This is grotesquely arrogant. Even journalists in the Economist he so likes (me too) obviously draw many of their ideas and comments from liberal arts background. This solitary fact shows Khosla doesn't know what he is talking about.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Success myopia

      @Matthew_Taylor it is indeed a good polemic.

      As an engineering graduate I've done my share of sneering at "Arts and Fuzzy Felts", but at least I had the excuse of having been young and foolish. My life is richer for having read Kafka and Orwell.

      I'm sick to the back teeth of hearing hyper-successful folk telling me to be a good little worker-bee. I'm not surprised at the contempt this man holds for the Gettysburg address - he has every reason to fear "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    George Santayana


    Those that do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it

    Which I believe was paraphrased by Spock in an episode of Star Trek.

    1. L05ER

      Re: George Santayana

      Just because I was taught about racism and segregation doesn't mean it stopped it... Or that liberal arts students really understand, or know what to do with, the anger they feel over it...

      Seems like teaching these kids history has led to us repeating the racial tensions and calls for segregation and racial bias... Your platitude isn't quite that accurate, sadly.

      1. a_yank_lurker

        Re: George Santayana

        @L0SER - The point of the quote is twofold. If one does know how events in the past occurred one is likely to make similar mistakes in the present when confronted with similar situations. For example most accidents have a chain of mistakes, blunders, and misjudgements that had to occur for it to occur. Someone in the chain taking the appropriate action often averts the accident. The other is if one knows why something was done in the past, one can understand how its legacy shapes today. A couple of trite examples: why many use 80 characters per line in code original comes from the number characters one could type on a punch card. The layout of keyboards was derived from typewriter layouts.

        In other words if one knows and understands history one can learn from it. Also, one may be aware that the problem you are address is very similar to a problem that has been seen before may be in different context.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          My Apologies to Trekkies

          Apparently it was a Vulcan called Tuvok

          "If you do not learn from your mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them. Tuvok"

          Though the quote is also widely misattributed to Churchill. I believe that Tuvok's version is more in context e.g. everything done is historical, if one does not accept when one has made an error one will keep on repeating it, this certainly applies to code, and improving and refining it.

          History teaches us that some users click on links in emails, some C is susceptible to buffer overflows and exploited, some rich people mistake their financial wealth for intellectual.

      2. MonkeyCee

        Re: George Santayana

        "Seems like teaching these kids history has led to us repeating the racial tensions and calls for segregation and racial bias."

        You are clearly confusing cause and effect here. I'm also pretty sure no-one (sane) is calling for segregation, but I admit I've stopped watching US political debates so who knows :) But you cannot seriously believe that talking about racism makes it worse. Or is it that you're only allowed to talk about racism as a bad thing, and all those closeted KKK types would just like us to have a free and frank debate about whether certain humans aren't really people because of the hue of their upper epidermis.

        Teaching people about racism, both it's history, and how some people still cling to it, is not going to suddenly make people into racists. Most of the time you have to actually get past the standard "how dare you accuse me of $BIAS, only evil people have $BIAS, and I am not evil" to get people to realise their various biases. As an example, I live in the Netherlands, which everyone is taught is a welcoming, open and inclusive society, and therefore has no racism. If you point out something that is clearly racist (hiring practises, Trump like comments about turks and morrocans) then you get told you've misunderstood, and that "all turks are rapists and all morrocans are coke dealers" is a FACT, not racist bullshit.

        So the first step in dealing with these issues is to first start by acknowledging they exist, and that "bad" opinions can be held by otherwise "good" people. Then you can do some dissecting of the causes, and why these things continue. Then perhaps onto actually addressing the issues, both in the practical (affirmative action and whatnot) and philosophical, where you might even try and change people's opinion by debate. Then you might even have some idea of why people can get so angry about it, which is VERY EASY TO UNDERSTAND (even for a liberal arts student), so you might be able to empathise.

        College also seems the ideal time to discuss these issues, since they can be pretty divisive at work. Hell, I've been written up by HR for asking people to not make jokes about rape (because I made the guy making rape jokes uncomfortable apparently).

        In before the ad homs, I'm not saying I'm some mystical being free from bias, and it's really only when you move countries/cultures do you get to see which of these are genuine, are formed by you, or formed by the society you existed in.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: George Santayana

          I have two degrees in the humanities and I work as a software developer. I am not agreeing with (or not) the silicon valley elite, however...

          I think you are greatly over-estimating the benefit to society as a whole of the liberal arts. Unfortunately humanities majors in the US, in droves, seem to be coming out of their education without the kind of empathy and appreciation of the diverse human experience that such a course of study is supposed to provide. Instead they come out with a set of specific viewpoints and the unshakable "knowledge" that they are morally and intellectually "in the right."

          On the other hand, STEM majors that have convinced themselves they are morally and intellectually "in the right" are just as insufferable. So maybe this goes beyond whether or not we read Shakespeare.

          Your example of racism is particularly good, but maybe not for the reasons you would believe. People are talking about implementing segregation in the US. Who are these people, you might (hopefully) wonder? Many of them are the liberal arts majors; the supposed, self-appointed, "enlightened." Instead of "segregation" though, they've given it a new's called having a "safe space." This idea has taken hold on many US campuses and if fully implemented would actually prevent the free exchange of perspectives which is supposed to be one of the benefits of college education.

          So while the first article maybe goes too far one way (it does), I believe some of the response found in this article and some of the commenters here again swing too far the other way.

          We do need people to study humanities, but we don't need a bunch more humanities majors.

    2. MonkeyCee

      Re: George Santayana

      I prefer: "Those that study history are doomed to watch those who didn't repeat it"

      I'm not sure how valid my criticisms of education would be, seeing as I never really appreciated how useful skills where when I learnt them, versus things I enjoyed learning that haven't had any real "value" other than I liked them. I would suggest that quite a lot of my university education (which I'm back doing) is designed to teach me more during the process, than as the actual end goal. So an essay isn't really about me producing a document, but the process of researching, fact checking, forming and arguing an opinion. The coding projects aren't about the product, but more about working in a team and dealing with task assignment and varying levels of ability.

      So while I'm not a professional carpenter, I build and repair stuff around the house, using skills I learnt as a 12 year old at school. Same for doing a bit of sewing, or sketching something. Useful skills to have at a very low level, but no use for a job. If my coding skills where the same level, I'm not sure how I'd apply them in any useful sense.

      1. LucreLout

        Re: George Santayana


        Useful skills to have at a very low level, but no use for a job. If my coding skills where the same level, I'm not sure how I'd apply them in any useful sense.

        Obviously, then you'd be a manager ;-)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Salvete vos omnes

    I would not have got my computer science based PhD without the ability to cut through latinesque jargon that having learned a bit of actual latin gave me.

    Just thought I'd throw that one out there.

  7. itzman

    Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

    If you cannot understand my argument, and declare 'It's Greek to me',

    you are quoting Shakespeare;

    if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning,

    you are quoting Shakespeare;

    if you recall your salad days,

    you are quoting Shakespeare;

    if you act more in sorrow than in anger,

    if your wish is father to the thought,

    if your lost property has vanished into thin air,

    you are quoting Shakespeare;

    if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy,

    if you have played fast and loose,

    if you have been tongue-tied,

    a tower of strength,

    hoodwinked or in a pickle,

    if you have knitted your brows,

    made a virtue of necessity,

    insisted on fair play,

    slept not one wink,

    stood on ceremony,

    danced attendance (on your lord and master),

    laughed yourself into stitches,

    had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing,

    if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise --

    why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare;

    if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage,

    if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it,

    if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood,

    if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play,

    if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason,

    then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare;

    even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing,

    if you wish I was dead as a doornail,

    if you think I am an eyesore,

    a laughing stock,

    the devil incarnate,

    a stony-hearted villain,

    bloody-minded or a blinking idiot,

    then -- by Jove!

    O Lord!

    Tut, tut!

    For goodness' sake!

    What the dickens!

    But me no buts,

    It’s all one to me, for YOU ARE QUOTING SHAKESPEARE!

    Written by the journalist and drama critic, the Late Bernard Levin, that Shakespearean amusement reminds us that this year is the 450th birthday of the greatest dramatist and the greatest writer of the English language who ever lived.

    1. Bloodbeastterror

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      If even 5% of El Reg readership, or even the general public, could name the play from which these now-everyday quotes are taken I'll eat my hat.

      Granted there are a lot of common phrases that came from Shakespeare. So what? How many people have actually waded their way through one of these incomprehensible plays? People are very willing to *say* that Shakespeare is wonderful because that's the right thing to say to show that you're a cultured and educated person, but in reality the snippets of phrases are the only relevance to today's world.

      Now I go find a bunker...

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

        "If even 5% of El Reg readership, or even the general public, could name the play from which these now-everyday quotes are taken I'll eat my hat." --- BloodBeastTerror

        I think you might be underestimating the commentardariat. The plays are not incomprehensible - watch Baz Lurman's film "Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet" and tell me you don't understand it. Sure some people use their knowledge of Shakespeare to show off, but that doesn't mean that others don't enjoy it.

        The real flaw in your premise is that it doesn't imply any valid conclusions. 95% of the El Reg readership, or the general public, couldn't name all the bones in a horse; all the particles in the Symmetric Theory; all the storage array technologies; the artists of the Precisionist school; the key mineral bearing ores; the human oncogenes responsible for most cancers; etc. etc. Does it mean that nobody should know this stuff? If we consider useful knowledge to be restricted to that which 95% of people know, eventually nobody would know anything (although civilisation would have ceased long before that point).

        1. Bloodbeastterror

          Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

          "couldn't name all the bones in a horse"

          The difference is, of course, that not knowing the things that you mention doesn't imply ignorance, whereas a lack of appreciation of the wonders of Shakespeare's language apparently does.

          "What's a horse's shoulder bone called?" "No idea". No problem.

          "What does 'The quality of mercy is not strained' mean?" "No idea". Ignoramus.

          1. Matthew Taylor

            Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

            It's not really the same thing, though, is it? The name of a horse's shoulder bone - you either know it or you don't. It could be called anything, really.

            In contrast - "The quality of mercy is not strained". Assuming you can parse the sentence, then applying some thought might lead you to the answer (that true mercy is given in a spirit of selfless generosity, not with conditions, or begrudgingly).

            One of the main reasons Shakespeare is considered such an extraordinary writer, is because of his unusual, poetic way of putting things - whilst still conveying his message precisely.

          2. John H Woods Silver badge

            Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

            "The difference is, of course, that not knowing the things that you mention doesn't imply ignorance, whereas a lack of appreciation of the wonders of Shakespeare's language apparently does." -- Bloodbeastterror

            It tells me that either you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy Shakespeare, or you have, and have decided you don't like it. Neither of these would lead me to conclude you are an ignoramus. But let me try something on you [I've changed the line breaks so it's more obvious how it reads]:

            The quality of mercy is not strained;

            It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.

            It is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes

            This means that mercy cannot be compelled: it has to be freely given and, when it is, it benefits both the recipient and the originator (it's actually a plea for a character to show mercy whilst understanding that the same cannot be demanded). The first line, however, could also be used to attack an apparently generous decision that was actually not a free choice: a shopkeeper acting as if they are doing you a favour by exchanging a faulty item, or whatever.

            Now your response:

            a) I understand it now, but I still don't like the archaic language, this isn't for me.

            b) cool, I didn't realise Shakespeare was so great / relevant / beautifully written!

            c) actually I disagree that's what it means, doesn't it mean ... ?

            d) I still think it's overrated, and probably not so relevant to modern society.

            e) who gives a shit? Nobody should learn this crap, they should concentrate on $SUBJECT because that stuff matters and this doesn't!

            Only one of these answers would lead me to the view that the respondent was an ignoramus.

            1. Bloodbeastterror

              Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

              "This means that mercy cannot be compelled"

              The fact that it needs to be explained sort of makes my point...

              And my response to your interesting bullet points (thank you, nicely phrased) - a & d, certainly not e.

              I believe in the maxim "all knowledge is power". There is nothing that should not be studied, since even the most unpromising and initially apparently useless things can become world-changers with the right imagination and application. However, having been forced to study this gibberish as a schoolboy I very quickly realised that it had no relevance to me, since my idea of communication is the clear and unambiguous conveyance of ideas, and (as my first sentence says) Shakespeare in the modern world signally fails to achieve this.

          3. werdsmith Silver badge

            Horse Shoulder Bones

            It's just a scapula, same as yours.

          4. Triggerfish

            Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

            "couldn't name all the bones in a horse"

            The difference is, of course, that not knowing the things that you mention doesn't imply ignorance, whereas a lack of appreciation of the wonders of Shakespeare's language apparently does.

            Yet these forums are full of people saying things like they (av user) do not undertsand an obscure bit of security knowledge on SSL certification, that's needed to stop them being pawned. Well they are ignoramuses then.

        2. Martin Gregorie

          Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

          The plays are not incomprehensible - watch Baz Lurman's film "Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet" and tell me you don't understand it.

          Better yet, go back into the archives and watch Zeffirelli's "The Taming Of The Shrew" or "Romeo and Juliet".

          1. Winkypop Silver badge

            Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

            Polanski's MacBeth!

            Top film, great play.

        3. John Tserkezis

          Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

          "95% of the El Reg readership, or the general public, couldn't name all the bones in a horse"

          Lets run with this premise: While I couldn't answer your question right away, if you gave me enough time, I'm sure I could google it. And if I can Google it, so can you. And if you can Google it, why the hell are you asking me?

          My point is, is this modern attitude the fault of people not reading Shakespeare? I'm not convinced it is.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

          > The plays are not incomprehensible - watch Baz Lurman's film "Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet" ...

          The plays *are* incomprehensible, you only have to either

          (a) read one (as opposed to seeing someone else's film based on what they though it meant),


          (b) compare the myriad absurd "interpretations" foisted on schoolchildren across the world by their teachers. (Said interpretations being contradictory enough that you can only deduce that the authors of the curriculum didn't understand the original play.)

          Asimov wrote a time-travel short story on the subject.

      2. itzman
        IT Angle

        Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

        The point is that he was just as influential as say Knuth is in computer science. Their legacies live on, although you may consider that neither are worth studying, the fact remains that of you want to understand the fundamentals of the (human) world you live in, they both have had a lasting effect.

        Shakespeare, and the Bible form a vast repository of useful aphorisms.

        And also just about every single twist of human drama there is.

        To understand Anti-Semitism, a quick glance at the Merchant of Venice reveals its early history for example. As well as both sides of the coin.

        Power and politics are treated also. As is love and betrayal. Sometimes a play is a good way tp communicate a picture of these things. The problem I have with modern RSC re-interpretations is that they are clumsy politically correct arty farty nonsense. You have to see Shakespeare as what it was - 16th century entertainment, plus a wry comment on human nature, for a world in which literacy was a rare thing.

        Merely learning the plays is not studying shakespeare. Understanding who he was an why he wrote what he wrote and for whom,. is far more interesting.

        1. Roq D. Kasba

          Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

          To dissect Shakespeare as just words is to see code as electromechanical pulses. He is a storyteller, a seer of interpersonal truths, and an entertainer. Stories are how we analogue humans learn, make sense of a complex world.

          And the beach thing just makes him look a complete cunt, to be frank.

      3. AdamWill

        Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

        Millions of people annually around the world "wade their way through" at least one of Shakespeare's plays, as a cursory glance at just about any theatre program would show you. They don't put on all those productions to empty houses, you know. Theatres are - believe it or not! - subject to the guidelines of supply and demand just like everyone else.

        (Sidebar to this debate: the most tiresome thing for me is the assumption that what you study in school or university somehow determines your path for life, and is really only of interest insofar as it "gets you a job". I've got a degree in history. I work in software. I know there are a lot of other people like me - if you do an informal count among any reasonably-sized gathering of software engineers, you'll wind up with ~25% with "liberal arts" degrees, in my experience. To a large extent, the point of study is not so much what you study as the techniques you learn by studying it.)

        1. LucreLout

          Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?


          To a large extent, the point of study is not so much what you study as the techniques you learn by studying it

          Certainly this is true, else all those studying "the classics" at Oxbridge would be wasting their time, and I rather think they're not.

          That being said, the study of anything other than computing conveys no knowledge of or ability with computers. Separate study must begin, and it is this that is often lacking. Most of the worst code I encounter is produced by people who studied something else at university; those studying nothing fare better, and those studying computing best of all.

          I believe this to be because having completed a degree in something else, too many participants then begin working as programmers and learn on the job. That works fine, but the code they produce while so learning is universally garbage.

          So back to the point of the article. Impressively, I think we're in near universal agreement that Kohsla is fundamentally wrong. I enjoy writing code for a living, but seldom enjoy reading it for entertainment. Quite apart from that, it is Khosla and his ilk that drive the offshoring boom, leaving coders in stiff competition for work from cheap, inexperienced, and largely unskilled offshorians.

          I can see much to be gained in teaching my children coding, both as a means to structure thought, but also as a fall back skill in case their careers don't work out. But as a primary career? Coding seems to have little future for those of school age, and I certainly don't envy the junior programmers just starting out.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      ...because Shakespeare is the earliest surviving plagiarist of all of those phrases ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

        and critical thinking would involve teaching them to understand, appraise and, perhaps, criticise theories such as those which underpin

    3. DavCrav

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      "if you recall your salad days,

      you are quoting Shakespeare;"

      Or Spandau Ballet.

    4. stungebag

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      Have an upvote to counter the person who inexplicably downvoted you.

      1. Commswonk

        Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

        "if you recall your salad days,

        you are quoting Shakespeare;"

        Or Spandau Ballet.

        Or possibly Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds.

    5. herman

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      "What the dickens?" If so, then either Dickens was very old or William very young.

    6. eesiginfo

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?


    7. John Tserkezis

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      "If you cannot understand my argument, and declare 'It's Greek to me', you are quoting Shakespeare;"

      I can actually say that. I speak mostly fluent Greek, and used to read and write Greek back in a previous life: And I can tell you it had no bearing in my ability to code, nor understand mathamatics. Towards those ends, it was all hard work.

      And at least for me, I'm not convinced that Shakespeare had nothing to do with it either.

      Just my experience.

    8. BlartVersenwaldIII

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      Nicely said. Gary Martin keeps a similar list at as well as a bunch of other interesting etymology titbits.

      Back on topic; Marc Andreessen does not seem to understand that both literature and coding are both about expressing oneself in an eloquent fashion in a way that's understandable to your target audience. Shakespeare was there at the crystallisation of what became the modern english language and in my humble opinion did a bang-up job so personally I'd regard him as, say, a ye-oldene-dayse Dennis Ritchie.

    9. Arctic fox

      @itzman Well played sir, well played!

      I am so jealous of your post I do not where to begin. Big thumbs up!

    10. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

      "Shakespeare wasn't original at all, all he did was string together loads of well-known quotes." To quote someone else.

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Should we teach our students what we already know, or prepare them to discover more?"

    Zero-sum-game trap, again. The answer is: BOTH.

  9. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "For Khosla, a world of Economist readers is a world of value, ... "

    Thanks for the nightmare food. I'd rather face a zombie apocalypse.

    1. Mark 85

      Too late, it's already here, except it's a VC apocalypse.

  10. getHandle

    Bring back voting on articles

    +1 from me!

  11. T. F. M. Reader

    Apparently, Shakespeare is not essential for getting rich...

    It might even hurt a VC professionally. E.g., I can understand that a VC would not regard "Neither a borrower not a lender be" a serious or useful advice.

    And I have lost count of the occasions when I had to quote

    We work by wit, and not by witchcraft,

    And wit depends on dilatory time.

    to various VCs and managers.

    Admittedly, having read all of Shakespeare and being able to quote some stuff from memory did not make me rich. Not in a sense a typical VC could relate to, anyway.

    [Aside: both quotes are by not the most attractive of Shakespeare's characters, but not the stupidest, either. A VC would probably point out that both were ultimately unsuccessful.]

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Any damn fool can code...

    ...but writing a decent requirements spec is still an art form and still rarer than hen's teeth.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Any damn fool can code...

      Have an upvote, all to true. Coding requires a disciplined, logical mind and a willingness to learn a programming language. The hard part is part is often trying to understand what the specs say and intend - often two unrelated ideas.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Any damn fool can code...

        @ a_yank_lurker

        I was a programmer for 35 years, hell if I know what that requires, but you have to like it. I have seen young guys and girls giving up, as they should, because they did not like it. Programming is a profession like any other.

        This reminds me of a day in school when I was 8 or 9 and our teacher decided to ask us, one by one, what we wanted to become as adults. We guys wanted to become, firefighters, pilots, policemen, train drivers and what not. I wanted to become a sea captain. What the girls wanted to become I cannot remember at all. But then there was this chap who said "DENTIST". There was a complete surprised silence in the class when all heads turned to look at that guy, and I felt sorry for him . I suppose his father or mother was one.

        Anyway, all we are and have achieved during our time to date is due to education and due to kids incredible ability and demand to learn. And our ability to provide is far from what it could and should be.

        Literature like music I would call "vitamins" for our brains or souls if you like, even if it will not become a profession.

        I have listened to all the GOP debates, and I cannot remember anybody mentioning education at all. Then there is Bernie Sanders, who has got it. And then there is Hillary who tries to fool the audience by talking about Trump's kids as if that was of any importance.

  13. quattroprorocked

    I love a good rant

    As to VK thinking that morals and ethics are hard to teach, yes and no. Any parent knows that MOST children have a ingrained sense of fair play and a parents main job is to rear a moral and ethical person.

    OTOH SOME people lack that sense and yes, such people, like VK (based on The Beach) probably are hard to teach. VK should be thankful that he wound up rich rather than in prison.

    But guys, it's not Arts OR Science, it's both. (Except when composers confuse the maths of music with using maths to make music. Because that's usually just noise...)

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: I love a good rant

      The art/science division is a very new thing anyway, often dogma-fueled. Look at the founding principles of the Royal Albert Hall, for instance. An Education involves both.

  14. tkioz

    What a moron

    Seriously we need to stop this obsession with teaching kids 'job skills' and focusing on *teaching them how to learn*. That's the key factor in education, not route memorization, teach them how to pick up the skills they need when they need them.

    Exposing them to history, art, literature, music, and all the other 'worthless' stuff only helps.

    It seems like this idiot wants a world of drones who seek the almighty dollar above everything else.

    1. Matthew Taylor

      Re: What a moron

      He's a VC - he was never going to want anything else. I agree with you entirely though. The trouble is, we've become very good at measuring things, and analysing the resulting data. Whilst this is surely beneficial in many ways, it brings its own disease, which is to assume that if you can't measure something, it doesn't matter.

      The result is that young people are taught to see the world through the lens of an excel spreadsheet.Such a tremendous narrowing of acceptable aims and goals for people ought to be lamented as a tragedy, but no-one notices, because their noticing apparatus is similarly curtailed.

      1. Trainee grumpy old ****
        Thumb Down

        Re: What a moron

        He's a VC - he was never going to want anything else.

        Given his ringing endorsement, presumably what he looks for in an applicant is the ability to discuss a random edition of The Economist cover to cover rather than the quality or viability of the project requesting funding.

    2. Useless User

      Re: What a moron

      Teach them job skills

      Make them freelancers

      Pit them against each other in the race to the bottom

      Have a society of easily disposable constantly shopping worker-bees

      What a terrible world of money and emptyness...

    3. oiseau

      Re: What a moron


      > It seems like this idiot wants a world of drones who seek the almighty dollar above everything else.

      It would seem so ...

      But then, it also seems he's nothing but a real honest-to-goodness certified asshole with a lot (lot) of money.


  15. jake Silver badge

    Clueless rich people pontificating ...

    ... about us GreatUnwashed[tm] is always amusing ...

    "It's hard to imagine there is someone in greater need of the lessons that liberal arts can afford you than Vinod Khosla."

    Concur. What a twat.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent article

    An eloquent, well-written trashing of the bollocks spouted by someone who is clearly a buffoon (albeit a rich one).

    His vision is one of a world of drones, highly-trained in just a few skills that are profitable to someone. Not pretty, and not a fitting reward for all the effort and pain humans have gone through for millenia to form civilisations.

    1. Tom Womack

      Re: Excellent article

      His vision is highly-trained people. But there is a lot of time in the evenings in which you can read whatever you like, utterly independent of the training you have in how to drill teeth, remove spleens, diagnose common diseases of the kitten, weld two-inch-thick copper plate, cut three pieces of wood so that they fit together into a beautiful corner, write C++, read Danish, design an injection-mould ejector which actually ejects the pieces, locate a sewer pipe two metres underground, convince a CIO that your product meets their needs, or whatever makes you money.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Excellent article

        His vision is highly-trained people.

        True. Having read a fair chunk of his essay (I confess to not having the stamina to go the whole way) I got the impression that he was largely concerned about training people to think more, particularly critical thinking.

        Nothing wrong with that, for everyone, not just those privileged enough to get a college education.

        My concern is his focus on the perceived lack of value in Liberal Arts vs the Sciences, and on back-fitting scientific thinking to the teaching of Liberal Arts. I find that concept quite scary. I'd rather leave the arty types to be arty, whether it is perceived to be useful to society or not.

      2. hplasm

        Re: Excellent article

        "...drill teeth, remove spleens, diagnose common diseases of the kitten, weld two-inch-thick copper plate, cut three pieces of wood so that they fit together into a beautiful corner, write C++, read Danish, design an injection-mould ejector which actually ejects the pieces..."

        That's what I do in my spare time... and read the odd bit of bard at work.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    If you've ever wondered...

    why People are born Mortal, all you have to do is listen to someone like Venal Khosla for five minutes.

  18. Useless User

    What a bot this guy really is

    A terrible self-brainwashed man, advocating an impoverished world, devoid of humanity and diversity, with only coders and shoppers remaining.

  19. Stevie


    Yes, let us indoctrinate a generation of yoof in the same skills 90% of the computer world already has: blithering obliviousness and nil ability to empathize with another and hence communicate effectively with them.

    Soon the whole world will know C insert modifier of the day but will need joke icon or an irony tag to tell them when others are leg-pulling. Eventually, all non-coders will be dead and no-one will be able to crack jokes that aren't about coding slips, so it will all work out in the end.

    What happens when we finally get proper AI and let them do the boring coding? What will these poor buggers do then? It'll be like when the dotcom bubble burst and all those Javascript web "programmers" suddenly found themselves in a sane IT environment that needed more than client-side enblingination skills. Our place was like an episode of The Walking Dead for about two weeks as Web Coder contracts began to expire. All that shuffling, moaning, dead-eyed yoof.

    Oh the humanities.

  20. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    coding vs old shaky

    As I have been coding for almost 44 years, I feel that it is time to learn a bit of Shakespear.

    A time and a place etc.

    If you are only a coder (imagine the geek in their Mom's Basement) then you are hardly prepared to face the world at large. I think the term is socially inept.

    Do we really want a world full of people like that?

    or do we want people with a rounded background?

    I know what I want and it is not the former.

  21. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    What a dry, empty, non-human

    How can children discover what they are really good at (and enjoy) if they don't get the widest possible early experience?

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: What a dry, empty, non-human

      "How can children discover what they are really good at (and enjoy) if they don't get the widest possible early experience?"

      Be careful with how that statement is applied, I've heard LOTS of bible-thumpers use that very defence.

  22. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Advice to Khosla

    Pour some water into a bucket.

    Dip your hand into it.

    Take it out again.

    Examine the impression you left behind.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He comes from the caste system

    When were you're in the upper ones you expect the other ones to be your slaves - and that has to be fixed and unchangeable. You can become rich as much as you can, but without a true cleverness and culture you will never be able to escape your childhood imprinting.

    I'm non surprised about what he said, it's a consequences of his culture he's unable to abandon and forget - because he was too focused on making money, instead of understanding.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He comes from the caste system

      Really?? The caste system, is relevant to this discussion? Is this how your logic works:

      VK is from India. India has a caste system. Therefore VK must believe in the caste system and its inflexibility. And somehow this predetermines how he views what should be in the undergraduate curriculum?

      His views on education are lousy, and the caste system may be terrible, but it is entirely possible, indeed extremely likely, that the two are completely unrelated.

  24. deschreiber

    I've done a little teaching of programming, and I think it can be very useful. However, I don't understand why some people want everyone to learn it. First, it takes years of hard work to do anything useful, so you can't argue that the skill will be "useful" to the general public. The argument that it teaches logical thinking is true, but so does math, physics, chemistry, even debating and argumentative essay writing in English class. Coding doesn't add anything new to one's exposure to logical thinking. How about the argument that it's important for the general public to understand something quite fundamental to the digital life that surrounds them? That might have enough validity to rationalise a simple introduction to programming, just to introduce basic concepts (a program, an algorithm, loops, interation, etc.) but not coding taught to develop actual programming skills.

    In the end I see learning coding as inessential as learning how an automobile works. Nice to know and useful at certain scattered moments of the average person's life, but hardly crucial. What you learn about people, about living your life, and the stimulation you get about great issues of morality, make literature far more important than coding, because it relates to everyone, not just the tech segment of humanity and because it addresses the very fundamentals of what it is to be allive and human.

  25. Commswonk

    What a wonderful phrase...

    "exploded his ego all over the internet"

    That phrase simply made my day

  26. captain veg Silver badge


    Despite considering a broad education to be invaluable, I can't help bringing Dilbert into this.

    Sorry about that.


  27. ElectricRook

    Someone woke up with the ear buds wrapped around his neck.

    Granted the MS (Master of Science) types without an appreciation for art and literature are total bores, likewise LA (Liberal Arts) types lacking critical thinking skills don't realize where we'd be without science.

    Extremists from camps are equally closed mindedly declaring the other useless when in fact a complete human being possesses a balance of both.

  28. a_yank_lurker

    A Comment by Mark Twain

    the imbecile may not like Willie Shakespeare but I think this Mark Twain quote is apt: "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

    A related quote from Twain many have alluded too about the value of knowing more than a narrow set of technical job skills: "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." Many are saying the wisdom of those who went before is something we need to learn from especially those who have shown great insight into human nature. Imbecile is like the 14 year old but many hear are like the 21 year old - Willie Shakespeare is some to learn from.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: A Comment by Mark Twain

      Another SLC[0] quote is quite apropos here:

      “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

      --Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

      My Dad had me read it when I was pre-teen, just before we started traveling as a family between home base (Palo Alto) and Blighty (Yorkshire) on a regular basis. It has stuck with me, for what should be obvious reasons, although I'm afraid many of the people reading this are entirely too insular to understand why.

      [0] Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain"'s real name.

      1. silverfern

        Re: A Comment by Mark Twain

        In principle I agree entirely with you and Mark Twain.

        Unfortunately there are some people in this world for whom travel would only confirm their prejudices, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

        Sad but true.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the goal of teaching kids how to code?

    Obviously teaching them anything in primary/secondary school isn't for a career, so why do those who say "all kids should learn this" say it?

    Is it to understand how computers work? If they taught assembly, or even C, I could see this happening but they aren't going to learn anything about how computers work if you teach them a modern language like Java or Swift.

    Is it to make them more computer literate? I don't think that's a concern with kids today, they are exposed to computers practically from birth, and are probably on average more computer literate than the adults teaching their classes in school.

    Is it to make them more savvy about computers, the internet, etc. i.e. so they understand why they shouldn't give out their personal information freely, be careful about what software/apps they install, who they converse with via email, text or social networking? Those are laudable goals, but they'll hardly learn that that by coding (but this is what we should be teaching them in school, IMHO, because most of their parents don't understand these things well enough themselves to be capable of teaching it)

    Is there a goal I'm missing? Teaching kids how to a code is like teaching kids how to change the tires and oil in a car. Is that useful to know? Sure. Is that the best use of their precious time as a student? Hardly.

    I'm sure I'll be lambasted on the Reg for suggesting such a thing, but I think it is ridiculous to teach kids coding. Sure, offer it as an elective in secondary schools, just like you might offer woodshop, cooking, and other classes that kids can take if they're interested. But it isn't something that is useful to teach to every kid in the way that teaching them math or science is.

    The reason it gets taught is because parents who are not really tech literate want their kids to "learn computers" and want a mandatory class or two they wished they had when they were kids. The technically literate (geeks) often remember learning how to program as one of the first things they did when they learned about computers, and think that's how it should work for everyone.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: What's the goal of teaching kids how to code?

      @DougS - All good points. There key part of education (not all done in school) is to teach critical thinking and it applies in all areas, to teach decisions have consequences, how to learn, and how to locate good sources of information. Also, one must accept that learning new skills will be a life long process, you do not finish learning skills at 18, 22, 25 but throughout life.

  30. ckm5

    Coding not important and pretty irrelevant

    Coding is just a tool, like a hammer or a sewing machine. You need to have the imagination to know what to do with said tool and learning that is far more important. Arts teach you to explore your own imagination and to push the boundaries set by your environment. Those lessons are far more valuable than 'coding'.

    Besides, just because you have a CS degree does not make you competent. We only have one person on my engineering team with a CS degree and they are by far the worst person on the team.... Give me a bunch of creative self-starters over any bro-grammer.


    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Coding not important and pretty irrelevant


      Thats me to a T

      Playing guitar or telling robots what to do... its all the same thing in my brain

      So why do I enjoy 1 and not the other comes the question...

    2. FatGerman

      Re: Coding not important and pretty irrelevant

      Abso-bloody-lutely. There are too many people with CS 'degrees' who appear to have been taught 'programming by numbers' - basically just bolting together stuff they read in textbooks but never innovating, never creating, just cranking a handle to churn out product.

      Give me 6 months with one creative, intelligent thinker with no programming training and I'll teach him to be more useful than 10 of those drones. He'll also be more fun at the pub.

      Education should be about critical thinking. Everything else flows from that.

  31. Pete4000uk

    Tell me

    why learning Shakespeare is so important?

    I managed to avoid that stuff through illness and part time schooling yet I seem to be able to write pritty well (better than those who did GCSE'S I met at college)

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Tell me

      "Tell me ... why learning Shakespeare is so important?"

      You aren't -- or at least shouldn't be -- taught Shakespeare to enhance your writing style, even though it may help. And perhaps it may not help you, but perhaps there's an author you admire who would say it helped them?

      Anyway, the reason it's still around is that enough people think it's great. Same reason people still watch Casablanca; enjoy box sets of Blackadder; listen to the Beatles; play retro video games; read Dickens; etc. etc. You get taught it in school -- or at least should be -- to get an opportunity to see if you, too, might enjoy it. Unfortunately the way it is taught sometimes adversely influences that.

      We should also remember that the Arts make serious money in the UK, so even if you only measure utility through monetization (I don't) there is still value to be had.

  32. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Stealthy Voice of the Times, before these Times

    Surely Shakespeare wrote in code, long before it got fashionable and degraded.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: A Stealthy Voice of the Times, before these Times

      One of the few times I have to disagree with you, amfM.

      The Bard of Avon wrote in The Queens English of the day.

      Yes, Elizabethan slang and 'orrible puns. Yes, much bawdiness.

      But code? Not so much. IMO, of course.

  33. Mike 16

    Logical Thinking

    As has been mentioned above, "coding" in a level 12 layers above the machine is very unlikely to teach much about logical thinking, It will be an exercise in memorizing a few thousand pages of arcane function/class definitions, which will mutate subtly in the next release (and which can really only be understood by knowing history: the history of where that library came from and what kluges were layered on it to fix the most glaring problems).

    Agreed that if one starts with bare metal (OK, first exercise uses something like Forth, then get into how the interpreters are implemented), and _only_ as an elective for kids that are actually interested. That doesn't help the school-district's I.T. manager place a big order for laptops with his brother in law, but whatever.

    Where I really learned logical thinking was in my high school Chemistry, Physics, and Geometry classes. My kids were in high school when geometry instruction was moving to a "let's not mention proofs" method, because standard testing is _so_ much easier if the questions only involve memorization.

    In college, Rhetoric and Epistemology were the big improvement of my logical thinking. Taught in the Philosophy department.

    Disclaimer: I have CS degree (Bachelor of _Arts_) and read The Economist (and The Register, natch). The idea that The Economist is alone in "getting it wrong" when reporting stuff is pretty naive. I don't think I've ever seen a journalistic article on a subject with which I was familiar without being a bit frustrated with the flaws. Get the news, then follow up in more focused sources for the stuff that really interests you.

  34. Howard Hanek

    What's More Abstract Shakespeare or Code?

    To virtually be or not to virtually be? The platform's the thing!

    Wood, Linux what difference does it make?

  35. BurnT'offering

    For VCs, the problem with Shakespeare is that

    he's out of copyright

  36. PassiveSmoking

    He's right

    Learn coding and get a job working for him.

    Learn Shakespeare and get a job... um... teaching Shakespeare to the next generation of kids who want to waste their lives?

    Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against the bard, but learning a trade is more important than being well read.

    1. hplasm

      Re: He's right

      "...learning a trade is more important than being well read."

      Or you could become a VC.

  37. kurios

    Khosla has fallen to short-sightedness.

    Given our progress, it's likely that "coding" as a specialized skill will not be broadly required in a decade or so.

    By 2026, it's highly likely that I'll be asking my computer (phone or cerebral implant) to bring up Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet or please model a particular configuration of microwave power and gas mixture in a plasma CVD process rather than thrashing out the code myself.

    All the same, in 2026, I expect still to be settling in with my paper copy of Will's compleat works for an evening in front of the fire, a glass of port, and some of humanity's finest and most insightful writing.

    It's so easy to fall off the exponential curve. Hasta la vista, Vinod.

  38. burgers22

    Reading some of the above I have serious doubts that VKs article has actually been read by some of the detractors. Far from encouraging drones, the argument is:- critical scientific thinking is a superior method for resolving major social and economic problems, empowering students to question and change the established doctrine. Indeed VK proposes that the aspirations, goals and visions of the liberal arts are actually better obtained and realised through study of more analytically methods. Perhaps others who have read the post rather than just the Reg's analysis have a different interpretation?

    1. albaleo

      I agree. The article seems to refer to little in VK's essay. Where did he say that coding is more important than Shakespeare? He stresses a knowledge of statistics more than coding. What I took from his essay is that the content of liberal arts courses are stuck in the past and need an update to meet the originally intended goals:

      "The most important things for a general, non-professional or vocational education are critical thinking and problem-solving skills, familiarity with logic and the scientific process, and the ability to use these in forming opinions, discourse, and in making decisions. Other general skills that are also important include — but are not limited to — interpersonal skills and communication skills ."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I too get the impression that most of the comments are from people who didn't read the original article, which was nowhere near as dismissive of the value of the humanities as the Register article implies. I did not agree with many of the points that VK makes (and I certainly do NOT like his position on beach access), but I found the Register piece was a significant distortion.

  39. a pressbutton

    The Economist...

    "The Economist is, of course, an excellent publication. But as anyone who is not permanently focused on the potential money-making possibilities that exist in change going on around the world can tell you, it comes with an excessive bias and places little value on the experiences and values that drive most of the people living on the planet."

    The thing is it is called the ecomomist. You are attacking a newspaper about economics for being too full of news about economics and not enough about food & sex (or whatever)

    (actually the arts reviews and obituaries are usually excellent)

    "As subject specialists will also tell you, when the Economist does glance over their specific topic, the end result may be well-argued and attractively produced, but it is often distilled down to a catchy sign-off and misses many of the critical, finer points.

    In other words, it is often wrong."

    Well, as it is known as the paper that published an editorial titled 'What god should do next' modesty is not a strong point, and the standard structure of a 2000 word article is often to put a catchy last para in, as most people skip over the meat in the middle where the nuance is to be found.

    This is probably true of most journalism - like this article.

  40. Tom 7

    If you have to be taught art you will never truly understand it.

    I read a shed load of stuff at school that I enjoyed thoroughly only to be amazed that those who were studying it for A' level hated it.

    I read the full works of Shakespeare at 15 but only 40 years later does some of it really make sense - and despite what some linguists say it should be read in a brummy accent.

    In terms of how things go together though coding pisses all over a well turned phrase.

  41. illiad


    learning Shakespeare is just an example - I'll bet there are plenty of millionaires who got rich by writing plays, working in plays, and then went on to be famous actors... they just don't shout about it, and moan why others don't do it... :)

    Adam sadler a millionare?? $300 mill..

  42. Elmer Phud

    But . . .

    Well written code is almost an artform.

    Many dabble and make a living but few can code properly and succinctly.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: But . . .

      coding properly and succinctly is not sufficient and not necessary. Its nice but the important thing is to get the correct outputs for any inputs. It does take time to learn that skill and even more to do it when you have an MBA on your back - many of whom will insist on the incorrect outputs for reasons largely to do with making their mark rather than satisfying the customer. Satisfying the customer can involve not giving them what they asked for - but what they really actually wanted and Bill S and Machiavelli never had to go through that.

  43. Spoonsinger

    Coding is an interesting pastime which you can get paid for and beats working on a factory line listening to piped in Radio One or dealing with the 'public'.

  44. Derek Choate 1

    I read this article and wondered if I was reading the Guardian for a second. Secondly, I wondered if this is why Britian is so short of tech grads.

    How can any person not recognise that, while Shakespeare is important, practical skills like coding are more so?

    1. Mike 16

      Not really about VK

      But more in response to the general gist of a lot of comments, and the one I am replying to in specific.

      "Practical skills like coding" are _very_ unlikely to be developed in the sort of courses that are shoved down the throats of students in the name of Computer Literacy (as opposed to elective classes taught to pupils interested in computing by teachers who actually know something about it).

      My daughter's "Introduction to Engineering" class (high school) consisted essentially of "How to do a PowerPoint presentation about a hypothetical product, whose technical aspects you need not address". A good practical skill if you plan to spend your career groveling in front of VK and friends, but not what I would call "Engineering". The only programming class offered was "Introduction to Programming, C++", which even a rabid C++ fan of my acquaintance was moved to describe as "Introduction to Juggling, Chainsaws"

  45. Tuxbuddy

    Vinod Khosla's post - Is majoring in liberal arts a mistake for students

    A good post. The problem is that a society that is totally obsessed with technology cannot understand that these gadgets are making us zombies. A good doctor just told me a few days back that he doesn't use IPads or IPhones at work because they come in the middle of eye-to-eye contact with his patients. The mind - body connection is very powerful and it has been shown to cure so many patients who were completely written off by doctors trained in evidence based medicine. How does one become a good doctor then. Not just by applying the principles of medicine learnt at medical schools or during practice. But by showing genuine empathy to the patient and following up with their treatment.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a delight to read an intelligent(ly written, left-field article instead of El Reg's contributions by its (former) own David Icke of the IT / 'science'(?!) world. Lewis, obviously, with anti-AGW being his own version of lizards.

    Ignore All The Science!

    El Page drove (nay, too strong / flattering a word), 'eased' me away from taking El Reg doses regularly, similarly to Rory Cellen Jones easing me away from taking BBC's (once-) technology news seriously. (Ironically it was despair at R C-J's 'tech' articles that led me to finding El Reg).

    My greatest achievement when I participated in Reg-words was LP deleting a post and saying that he didn't have to take such 'gobshite'. I'd merely used the word squaddie. Such power. Such a squaddie-like response :-)

    I have to say that I wasn't subsequently proud at baiting him. It took me lower than the level I was criticising. He obviously had his own problems, as his death-throes flurry of anti-AGW posts showed. Which of us doesn't? He was probably a decent bloke at heart, and had courage in his mission, (as, I expect, does David Icke).

    But there are good things about El Reg. It is the one place I've found that has a regular helping of proper technology / IT articles (which is where it should stay - its amateur, often pseudo-, science is orders of magnitude below actual science sites / publications - which is how it should be... it should no more aspire to that out-of-range territory than to Simon Cowell's).

    I hope that the new editorial power-brokers don't destroy what is good about El Reg. New people with A Vision easily could. Often do.

    Stick to Technology. Don't become a lightweight hipster site, like Wired, or any of the myriad gadget review sites. Don't sell yor soul for Revenue, = advertising = lowest common denominator, which will end up as Cowell-esque crap.

    I sort of hope I get a lot of down-votes for this. It will show it's hit a raw nerve amongst Pageian acolytes, which is how it should be. (I suspect some of those espousing Page-ianism by up-voting their demised Masters'-like comments are actually LP incarnations. His upvotes always had some taste of muliple-Id alter egos boosting disciple-votes).

    But, a curse on me for my ungracious comments. I hope they don't completely obscure any more worthy sentiments. I do still think that there is something unusual about the quality and frequency of significant IT news presented by El Reg. Just, don't ever get complacent and lose your focus. Please.

  47. JeffyPoooh

    Maybe we could program some future Strong A.I. ...

    Maybe we could program some future Strong A.I. to appreciate Shakespeare, so we don't have to.

  48. thx1138v2

    "The Gettysburg address is about humanity. It is inspiring regardless of time or purchasing trends."

    Which is why it is, in the view of VC's, worthless. There can't be an unending cycle of upgrades, addons, etc. for which to charge people.

    Make a bar-b-que pit that lasts forever and you'll only ever sell one to each customer.

  49. Bruce Ordway

    Isn't it all still just reading and writing?

    What is even worse than liberal arts? Fine arts. I studied painting to the dismay of all my relatives. (and most of my instructors). Along the way I also managed to learn how to read and write code.

    Now I actually make my living off of programming now. I don't really see a huge difference between the various disciplines.

  50. Barry Rueger

    Nothing but the best

    I too suffered through high school Shakespeare, and amateur productions that were long and tedious.

    It was only lately that I've started watching some productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

    Wow. Now I understand what all of the fuss is about.

    If you're hating Shakespeare, it's likely because you've been watching crap productions. The RSC make his words sing, and two and three hours can fly by like an instant.

    Best of all, they broadcast their plays around the world at one of your local cinemas. It's worth ten bucks to see how truly magic Shakespeare can be.

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Nothing but the best

      Or maybe, you got it back to front? Maybe it's the long and tedious productions that are "genuine" and the RSC productions that are cut down, tarted up, and in short, lipstick on a pig?

      Just a thought.

  51. jMcPhee

    Reading Shakespeare

    Having coders read Shakespeare is a good idea. It gives them something to do when they are declared redundant because their jobs got outsourced.

    Khosla and those like him would love to have more coders. The more there are, the less they need to be paid.

  52. Daedalus

    At least he's not a useless tosser

    The arts are full of egomaniacs who produce, in the end, zippity doo dah. The arts are full of egomaniacs eager to enrich themselves by the labor of the thousands of wannabees who will never ever make a living at it and will, in these enlightened times, possibly leave themselves in debt slavery rather than simple penury. The arts are full of purveyors and consumers of substances both stimulative and deleterious to the brain.

    Compared to that, I'll take one Silicon Valley egomaniac any day.

    We can also add Mr. McC. to the list of the non-audible.

  53. NormDP

    He owes his presence in the West far more to Shakespeare than to coding.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To Kieren McCarthy, or the relevant subeditor

    I expect you are aware that "VC" also (some would say primarily, at least in a Commonwealth context) stands for Victoria Cross, which puts your byline into a rather unfortunate light.

  55. Camilla Smythe

    You lot don't 'code'.

    You just layer shit on top of others layers of shit and Vinod et al rewards those who manage to write shit on top of shit that gives the best short term return so when you come to rinse and repeat the next batch is layering their shit on top of the previous layer of shit and it is shit all the way down.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: You lot don't 'code'.


      This round's on me :-)

    2. GrumpenKraut

      Re: You lot don't 'code'.

      > You just layer ...

      How do you know?

      1. Camilla Smythe

        Re: You lot don't 'code'.

        How do you know?

        Because, occasionally, I have to write a 'Hello World' program in your latest flavour of shit and it falls over at the first attempt to run it because your shit was layered on someone else's shit so you had a shit clue as to what was meant to happen because all the other layers of shit were layered upon everyone else's layer of shit and they did not tell you how the shit was meant to work because they did not understand the shit below their shit and now you have layered your shit on top of the previous shit you have no idea what the fuck is meant to happen but Vinod will spunk all of your pension money on any little shit who appears to give some semblance of his shit based on the other shit supposedly working such that Vinod can make some cash and then every other shit writer gets to layer more shit upon the new shit developed by the new little shit. Fuck me not about 'peer review'.

        Alles klar?

        1. GrumpenKraut

          Re: You lot don't 'code'.

          > Alles klar?

          Frankly, no. But VERY impressed with the ability to say "shit" 18 times in one sentence!

          Here is a little C++ program for your amusement (needs -std=c++11):

          int main() { <:]()<%[](){[:>()<%}();}();}(); }

          Hope that is clear enough.

          1. Camilla Smythe

            Re: You lot don't 'code'.

            Here is a little C++ program for your amusement (needs -std=c++11):

            int main() { <:]()<%[](){[:>()<%}();}();}(); }

            Hope that is clear enough.

            Presumably very succinct..

            do I do,

            sudo apt-get install -std=c++11 #?

            or should I just ignore your invitation to install another layer of shit to deal with the shit you wish to layer upon it?

  56. goldcd

    Surprisingly I find myself going against the sentiment of the masses here.

    I never liked "The Greats of Literature" - made to read them, perform them, comment on them - but frankly I never liked them. Came back many years later as a non-grumpy-teenager to review my position, and up there with piano lessons I still have no love, and definitely am not "thanking anybody later".

    My personal feeling is that there's nothing wrong with Shakespeare. You can consider it a great leap forward (e.g. the jew demanding his pound of flesh is portrayed with sympathy) - for its time.

    Fetishing Homer, Shakespeare, Shelley, whoever is wrong - they were important for their time, like great battles, but are just interesting points on a continuum. Pivotal in their time, but lessening in interest as we continue.

    Not expecting others to agree, but then there's plenty that I love (Biology) that book-wavers dismiss.

    I can get myself worked up into paroxysms of wrath over people not caring to even attempt to understand how their own meat-bag works.

    Physics I can't relate to, but I wish I could (it's on my to-do-list) - the world, the everything.

    I can read, I hasten to point out. I love reading. Richard Feynman is surely somebody who manages to bridge a gap - to explain something important to you. Or, should you not want a lecture, Primo Levi.

    I guess my point is, "What's the point of literature?"

    Value is within the context - "Hey, maybe Jews aren't completely evil!?!". Context changes, values shift, and that should impact the literature that comments upon it - not to disparage it for what it was, but we should recognize what it is.

  57. Michael Bukva

    O, brave new world,

    that has such people it 't.

  58. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I think programming is more important than coding.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No he didn't.

    The article never used the word coding at all. It only mentioned computer programming, which involves a lot more than coding.

    However, computer programming is a lot more important than Shakespeare, which is obvious from the fact that there are a lot more people who've been positively affected by computer programming than have been positively affected by Shakespeare (particularly all of the people who don't know English).

    But the blog wasn't really about that. It was about wanting to see skills-focused education that helps people think critically and rationally, and, for pragmatic reasons, focuses on teaching stuff that's is hard to self-teach and that will help people be gainfully employed and productive.

    Unnecessarily wordy, but with the basic gist correct.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      "However, computer programming is a lot more important than Shakespeare, which is obvious from the fact that there are a lot more people who've been positively affected by computer programming than have been positively affected by Shakespeare (particularly all of the people who don't know English)"

      Obvious? Fact? Pfft. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

      That phrase, by the way, has made its way into hundreds of cultures and languages, as Shakespeare happens to be one of the most translated authors in history. It's far from the English-only phenomenon. His works are customary among the literature taught in public schools. Not to mention schools of actors all over the world - one simply cannot evade Shakespeare there.

      1. illiad

        No, you could say acting (mostly Shakespeare, of course!) is good training for young minds, it forces them to adapt to strange cultures, and odd ways of talking or speaking...

        Just the way you adapt your English phraseology into programming phraseology... BUT Shakespeare is a lot more understandable and interesting! once you have mastered iambic pentameter, coding becomes a lot easier!!! :D

        go on, google it.. :P :)

  60. This post has been deleted by its author

  61. Willy Wonka

    "... when the Economist does glance over their specific topic, the end result may be well-argued and attractively produced, but it is often distilled down to a catchy sign-off and misses many of the critical, finer points."

    Unlike the Register, where provocative satire take precedence over such mere ephemera as "facts" ?

    Of course, that could be the reason I read, and enjoy, the Register so much, whereas I have not looked at the Economist in ... well ... at least several fiscal years.

    :) Willy W

  62. tiggity Silver badge

    short termism

    A few hundred years ago, framework knitting was a major industry in the UK, many people had a kniitting frame in their house making goods for money.

    Now, 1 specialist Beeston factory that makes niche high end goods in the UK still uses them, a couple of museums have working knitting frames, their general use ended ages ago.

    In general, automated machines do most of the production work that was manually done on frames.

    In the future it may well be that AIs do some / most programming.

    Many mainstream vocational skills deemed "significant" at any period end up being a historical footnote later on.

    However, love of (& production of) literature, art, theatre, music etc. has still continued.

    The "liberal arts" may well be the last bastion of humanity, due to the sheer complexity of the human condition, creating great literature will be outside the remit of automation for a lot longer than writig an app will be.

  63. Archie Woodnuts


    That is the question.

    With apologies for shoddy code.

  64. thomas k


    Next he'll be saying coding's more important than Arnold Bax!

  65. Unep Eurobats

    I always try to have them both

    Writing comments in verse, by my troth.

  66. Jonjonz

    Fascist Values Showing

    Our Fascist owned global media has always fed us a steady diet of the 1% pontificating about why they are so special and the rest of us should change to suit them.

    They even believe their own drivel. Ignoring the pyramid of priviledge they sit atop, and pretending that in their system there is room at the top for more when in reality, there is not, and the whole thing depends on exploiting the other 99%.

  67. Catweazle666

    Yeah right...

    History is bnuk - Henry Frod.

  68. Triggerfish

    From the article

    "understanding history is interesting, even useful, but not as relevant as topics from the Economist"

    Oh dear, as soon as you start claiming you cannot learn from History, you should facepalm and shut up.

    1. Petrea Mitchell

      Re: From the article

      My thought at that quote was that I'd be hard-pressed to understand some Economist articles if I didn't have a solid grounding in history first.

  69. FuzzyWuzzys

    Get stuffed!

    I'd rather see my children turned out as thoughtful, rounded and complete intelligent individuals, rather than mindless, one-track drones who can only do one thing and when that one thing is no longer required find themselves on the scrapheap of life.

    To put it bluntly, "Jack of all trades and master of none." will ensure you are a valuable and productive member of humanity!

    ( Pirate flag as pirates stood for freedom of thought! )

  70. rhfish

    We live in a mostly Capitalist society where price signals us to produce more or less of something.

    If the market signals that liberal arts graduates will mostly be working in fast food, Walmart, and Uber, best choose another major.

    If you chose poorly it is immoral to compel your neighbor to subsidize your underappreciated knowledge of Frankfurt School, Feminist Naratology, or Postcolonial Studies.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More code monkey slaves

    Vinod Khosla would like nothing more than more naïve of tech workers to exploit. Find a promising new startup, grab stock, strangle the flow of funding, then sell fast and cheap. Employees spend years working long hours at low pay only to find out that their company is damaged goods up for sale at a bargain price.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Billy Shakespeare

    Yeah, totes cool man.

    But how is he related to the Kardashians?

    - Yoof

  73. jimhex

    Khosla can't write

    Go read the blog entry McCarthy linked to. The one actually authored by Khosla.

    It's a pathetic exhibition of bad grammar, worse logic, scattershot thinking, heaped cliches.

    If his "liberal sciences" curriculum could help, he should be its first student.

    But I don't think it could.

  74. Lammy

    Some Elizabethan dude...

    A beautifully written article, and a necessary rebuke to an impoverished view of the human experience. It put me in mind of something I'd read:

    ... but man, proud man,

    Dress'd in a little brief authority,

    Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd—

    His glassy essence—like an angry ape

    Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

    As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,

    Would all themselves laugh mortal.

    (Just trying to remember where that came from...)

  75. Pat Att

    Shakespeare? Pah!

    Shakespeare is vastly over-rated in my opinion. Give me Graham Greene, Nabokov, or Charlotte Bronte anytime.

  76. Patras


    Below is a Science & Shakespeare connection...

    The host for the first eight films was Dr. Frank C. Baxter, a USC professor of English and television personality who played the role of "Dr. Research".

    During the 1950s, his (Dr. Frank C. Baxter) program Shakespeare on TV won seven Emmy Awards. He was a professor of English at the University of Southern California.

    The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957)

  77. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I'm sure a lot of culture I have consumed over the years have been influenced by Shakespeare, but I have never actually read Shakespeare.

    Other language-culture spheres have other authors that are major influences for them.

    And, besides, if Shakespeare had never existed, we would simply have something/someone else in its place.

    So, yes, programming is a way more important tool, than being able to quote Shakespeare.

    This is a major philosophical debate worthy of an Ali-G debate evening.

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