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Is learning Lisp still worth it ?

Paul Graham is quite famous and he loves Lisp. He wrote that : programming languages vary in power and Lisp is at the top.
And a lot of people say learning Lisp will make you a better programmer.
Is that still true in 2019 ?

I want to learn something new, and am considering Lisp. Is that a good choice ?

Top comments (4)

ahferroin7 profile image
Austin S. Hemmelgarn • Edited

Lisp is interesting for a couple of reasons, one of which being that it's actually rather old (the only other widespread HLL that's this old and in active use today is Fortran). Clojure, Scheme, and Common Lisp are still pretty widely used today, though there have been dozens of dialects over the years.

I can't say it's super popular, and it's almost certainly pretty low on the list of languages by sheer amount of actively developed code, but I'd say it's still useful for two big reasons:

  • Lisp has been extremely influential in the design of more recent languages. Among the really big ones today that took some inspiration from it are Python, Ruby, Scala, Swift, JavaScript, and Haskell. On top of that, many less popular languages (Nim, Lua, Forth, Elixir, Perl, etc) have also been influenced by it. As a result, learning Lisp can give you some further insight into a wide variety of other languages.
  • S-expressions (which were invented for Lisp), while not as widely used as they used to be, are still a solid and efficient data serialization format for tree-structured data. Learning to use them by learning Lisp gives you another option for data serialization that's often far more efficient than XML, JSON, or YAML when dealing with simple data structures.
alvaromontoro profile image
Alvaro Montoro

This is really subjective. Is it a good choice? It depends. From a directly professional point of view (end goal: finding a new job), it’s a terrible choice. It would be better to go with a more practical and used language. From a wider perspective, learning functional programming (using Lisp, Scheme, Prolog, etc.) could be a good asset and widen your experience and exposure to other types of thinking programmatically, which is always nice and could come handy down the road.

jcubic profile image
Jakub T. Jankiewicz

Learning Lips can teach you very advanced concepts in programming that you would never know if you learn different language. I'ts always worth learning new programming concepts. Right now different languages catch up with concepts, but still lisp can teach you something new that's advanced, that is impossible to implement as simple as in lisp.

kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman

I also want to learn Lisp (after nearly 2 decades of developing software). Even more after I read Typed Lisp, A Primer.