LEGAL as a programming language

Ever find yourself utterly confused by legalese? You are certainly not alone. Take a look at this post titled “Think of a Will as a Program You Can Only Test By Dying” which looks at legalese as a kind of programming language.

The smallest “useful” computer program simply prints “Hello World!”. It does almost nothing, so most of the program is overhead. In C, it takes 53 characters of program to print 12 bytes of text – an overhead factor of 4.4.

I’ve been reading LEGAL this week, because some friends of mine are writing their will. I agreed to be the trustee in case both parents die while the kids are still young. It occurred to me that the “hello world” of wills is this:

Leave everything to my spouse. If s/he is dead, then split it evenly among my kids.

This is pretty much what my friends’ will said, but to express these 83 bytes of idea took 18,700 bytes of LEGAL, for an overhead factor of 225. That is, LEGAL is 51 times less efficient than C.

Thanks Ephraim!

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By Paul

Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at Automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.


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