Permission or Forgiveness

A few minutes ago Alex Martelli gave a talk on "Permission or Forgiveness?"

Grace Murray Hopper's famous motto, "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission", has many useful applications -- in Python, in concurrency, in networking, as well of course as in real life. However, it's not universally valid. This talk explores both useful and damaging applications of this principle.

Howard Butler clued me in to this motto years ago. I'd like to read more about Grace Hopper. She invented a compiler in 1952 and here's the cover of a book about its language.

Martelli pointed out that just because it's easier to ask forgiveness doesn't make it always ethical or right to not ask permission instead. Use of the imagery above falls into the category of cases in which you ask for permission. The Computer History Museum readily grants permission, as long as I mention the following:

Image courtesy of Computer History Museum.

The cover is masterpiece of midcentury (mid-20th, that is) graphic design: the waves, the typography, and most of all, our friend the atom.


Re: Permission or Forgiveness

Author: Martin Davis

Nice post, Sean.

Gotta love that postwar starry-eyed optimism about science - "if it has atoms it must be great!".

Also gotta love the title - "Automatic Programming". All we have do is to sit back and watch the teletype churn away! Ironic that Grace Hopper was apparently also the originator of the expression "bug".