Can we equate computing with art?

Extract from ‘Geek Sublime: Writing Fiction, Coding Software’ by Vikram Chandra: “A geek hunched over a laptop tapping frantically at the keyboard, neon-bright lines of green code sliding up the screen – the programmer at work is now a familiar staple of popular entertainment. The clipped shorthand and digits of programming languages are familiar even to civilians, if only as runic incantations charged with world-changing power.
Computing has transformed all our lives but the processes and cultures that produce software remain largely opaque, alien, unknown. This is certainly true within my own professional community of fiction writers; whenever I tell one of my fellow authors that I supported myself through the writing of my first novel by working as a programmer and a computer consultant, I evoke a response that mixes bemusement, bafflement, and a touch of awe, as if I had just said that I could levitate.
Most of the artists I know – painters, film-makers, actors, poets – seem to regard programming as an esoteric scientific discipline; they are keenly aware of its cultural mystique, envious of its potential profitability and eager to extract metaphors, imagery, and dramatic possibility from its history, but coding may as well be nuclear physics as far as relevance to their own daily practice is concerned.
Many programmers, on the other hand, regard themselves as artists. Since programmers create complex objects, and care not just about function but also about beauty, they are just like painters and sculptors. The best-known assertion of this notion is the 2003 essay “Hackers and Painters” by programmer and venture capitalist Paul Graham. “Of all the different types of people I’ve known, hackers and painters are among the most alike,” writes Graham. “What hackers and painters have in common is that they’re both makers. Along with composers, architects, and writers, what hackers and painters are trying to do is make good things.”
According to Graham, the iterative processes of programming – write, debug (discover and remove bugs, which are coding errors), rewrite, experiment, debug, rewrite – exactly duplicate the methods of artists. “The way to create something beautiful is often to make subtle tweaks to something that already exists, or to combine existing ideas in a slightly new way,” he writes. “You should figure out programs as you’re writing them, just as writers and painters and architects do.”
Attention to detail further marks good hackers with artist-like passion, he argues. “All those unseen details [in a Leonardo da Vinci painting] combine to produce something that’s just stunning, like a thousand barely audible voices all singing in tune. Great software, likewise, requires a fanatical devotion to beauty. If you look inside good software, you find that parts no one is ever supposed to see are beautiful too.”
This desire to equate art and programming has a lengthy pedigree. In 1972, famed computer scientist Butler Lampson published an editorial titled “Programmers as Authors” that began: “Creative endeavour varies greatly in the amount of overhead (ie money, manpower and organisation) associated with a project which calls for a given amount of creative work. At one extreme is the activity of an aircraft designer, at the other that of a poet. The art of programming currently falls much closer to the former than the latter. I believe, however, that this situation is likely to change considerably in the next decade.”