Program or be Programmed
February 8, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Programming is the new High School Diploma
posted by DU (73 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
No, it's not.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:56 AM on February 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


10 PRINT "GET OFF MY LAWN";
20 GOTO 10
posted by chavenet at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


I agree with this.
posted by empath at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2012


I take it the writer is a programmer.
posted by PJLandis at 11:00 AM on February 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Programming is the new high school diploma: You need to have it just so you can say you have it and move on to the next level, and then nobody will ever even ask you if you have it, let alone ask you to do anything that would require you to have actually learned anything about it.

I've never noted on a resume that I have a high school diploma. Ditto with programming.
posted by The World Famous at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think he is defining programming very broadly. Everything from programming computerized mixing machines for bakers, to CNC machines and robots for factory workers, to writing web apps. In that sense, he may be right.

Another interesting article is Making it in America about computerization in the manufacturing sector. It outlines roughly the same thing, old skilled labor jobs are being replaced by machines, the new skilled labor is to program those machines to operate correctly.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:04 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


A programer who has absolutely no idea what all those other people could possibly be doing for work.

"Look at all those other people! Their jobs must be different than mine and therefore easily replicated by my output!"
posted by helicomatic at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


it's one of those essays where the author uses one of the more esoteric meanings of a common word to make a point that looks very broad but is not
posted by LogicalDash at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


All of this really belies the belief that "we don't make anything in America" anymore. We make plenty of stuff, we just don't employ as many people to do it as we used to.

I don't know what will happen once computers can program themselves.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:09 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think he is defining programming very broadly.

Yes, as in "programming the Tivo."

This is about using computers, which seems a gimme (i.e. in order to do middle tier jobs you need to be able to "program" Microsoft Word to use your company's font; or "program" Apple's Keynote to swipe fade transitions between slides.)
posted by chavenet at 11:09 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


He's definitely using a very loose definition of programming. It's still going to be a while before we see global "advanced computer proficiency" for various socioeconomic reasons. As far as everyone actually designing and writing software, that's even farther away. Most successful software developers I know have an incredible support structure (strong family, or maybe they had a good teacher in high school with the right resources).
posted by spiderskull at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got gripes with the precision of this guy's language, and I think that's where most of the comments above are coming from, too.

But if you take this essay and imagine it worded less for impact and more for persuasion, the man has a very good point. And I think his point extends even to his fourth tier, the people he calls "experts". I work with scientists, and every year more and more new scientists show up who have significant programming expertise, and fewer and fewer show up who don't.
posted by gurple at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, as in "programming the Tivo."

I was thinking "programming your VCR" , which I tehn realized people probably haven't done in 15 years.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2012


If you've read this far, you should follow me on twitter here.

No I should not.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:12 AM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


[blink]12:00[/blink]
posted by griphus at 11:12 AM on February 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


I was thinking "programming your VCR" , which I tehn realized people probably haven't done in 15 years.

Hah, that was what I wrote initially as well. I guess for (*ahem*) a certain generation that's where the bar is set in terms of machine use complexity.
posted by chavenet at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


The author appears to have a serious case of Engineer's Disease.

Historically people have tended to become more specialized, not less, as this gives them greater comparative advantage. Trying to fight against that is difficult at best and likely counter-productive, economically-speaking.

And anyone who has taught CS 101 (or can remember taking it) can tell you that many people are simply not interested in programming or able to program competently. And that's among college students. What the author proposes is delusional unless there is an enormous reduction in the complexity of computer programming, which has not been accomplished despite decades of trying.

Is there really a need for that much specialty software, anyway? The author gives an example of a dentist having a nurse who creates a data mining program to optimize the dentist's business. Well, first of all, why not have the dentist do it, since in this world everyone can program? But anyway, the example presumes that specialized data mining experts wouldn't have already produced a general purpose product that can a) do a better job b) more cheaply. Let the nurses nurse and the programmers program. Economically they're both better off that way. After all, if the nurse could produce a better data mining program than the specialists, then she'd quit her job and sell the program to other dental practices.
posted by jedicus at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2012 [24 favorites]


or maybe there's going to be just two tiers: the illiterate and the people who live off of capital gains.

the problem with this sort of futurism is that he never even begins to describe by what processes what he thinks is inevitable will come to be i.e. why is programming the new h.s. diploma. he notices computers everywhere. Does he have any sense why computing has become commoditized? Does he have any sense of what a commodity is? Does he have any ideas about how the world he lives in works at all? He seems to think that this state of affairs is inevitable and self-evidently so. The purpose of analysis i.e. writing essays is to reveal the how and why, and from how and why maybe one can makes guess about what will come to be.

Without that, not only is he not saying anything new (as he admits) but he's really not saying anything at all. And its an easy thing to say: in the future everyone will be like me!
posted by ennui.bz at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know what will happen once computers can program themselves.

The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.
posted by maqsarian at 11:18 AM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


> I don't know what will happen once computers can program themselves.

In the future, everything will be available for free on the internet but no-one will have a job.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:18 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


There hasn't been a specialization of "high school diploma earners". Or "people who can read". The argument is that programming is like those.

The fact that people aren't interested or it's too hard for today's adults is not a proof that it won't be necessary in the future.
posted by DU at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking "programming your VCR" , which I tehn realized people probably haven't done in 15 years.

It always baffled me back then that "programming your VCR" (which sometimes referred to just setting the clock, not even setting up future recording sessions) was treated like doing brain surgery. Just follow the goddamn instructions! It's not that hard, I promise!

Of course, I feel the same way when I get asked by my CEO (at a tech focused company) to set up Outlook for him.
posted by kmz at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


This article serves to reinforce my prejudice that programmers have neither business sense nor imagination.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:23 AM on February 8, 2012


  1. Graying programmer has been in the trenches for 20 years.
  2. He used to enjoy being the "computer whiz" in a somewhat specialized field.
  3. He now sees a new crop of 20-something programmers making truckloads of money, as well as being a part of a zeitgeist that sort of passed him by.
  4. Programmer is determined to belittle the field by letting the air out of all the colorful balloons at a party to which he never got the invite, one blog entry at a time.

posted by four panels at 11:25 AM on February 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


I work with scientists, and every year more and more new scientists show up who have significant programming expertise, and fewer and fewer show up who don't.

Yeah, but they use Perl.
posted by ryoshu at 11:27 AM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Blogger sees world entirely through lens of his own narrow experience. Then asks us to follow him on the Twitter. Film at 11.

Also, exactly right with the Engineer's Disease reference.
posted by aught at 11:30 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you guys find it less objectionable if we use the phrase "technology literate". I'm not really ralking a specific ability to set up TIVO or plug formulas into a spreadsheet. I'm talking about "computer sense" that would allow you to figure out how to get whatever machine you are confronted with to do what you want it to do.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2012


Of course, I feel the same way when I get asked by my CEO (at a tech focused company) to set up Outlook for him.

Don't get me going about the marketing and sales folks in the high tech company I work for. Scary.
posted by aught at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2012


He couldn't be more wrong. We're at the point in technology now where more complex devices and applications actually become much easier to use and operate. All those people who couldn't program the clocks on their VCRs are more than capable of telling a voice-activated "intelligent" device what they want it to do.
posted by rocket88 at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


The new "middle tier" of the workforce looks something like this: literate, able to use math and write well, able to read a manual and instruct computers to take various actions depending on various conditions. Note that I'm talking about entry-level work. This job segment will take over "old" jobs from both the illiterate sector, and the college-educated sector. Eventually, as robotics comes to fruition, it will consume every job niche but the true experts.

He says this, and then goes on to suggest that the answer to this problem is for everybody to become a programmer.

Again: increased automation is increasing inequality and rendering the lower and middle-classes mired in debt and poverty -- so the solution is for everybody to program the machines that have made their jobs redundant.

Except that Joe from the steel mill doesn't know how to program and probably can't. He's got an IQ of 92, and that's not going to change. Society needs jobs to keep people like Joe occupied, regardless of whether Joe's job returns direct monetary profits or not. The "profit" from Joe's make-work job at the steel mill may be society keeping Joe off the street and owning a home.
posted by Avenger at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another interesting article is Making it in America about computerization in the manufacturing sector. It outlines roughly the same thing, old skilled labor jobs are being replaced by machines, the new skilled labor is to program those machines to operate correctly.

I was reminded of that article as well, I was surprised that to get an entry level job as a machinist you now have to be familiar with g-code.
posted by atrazine at 11:46 AM on February 8, 2012


He's an old dude. Any tinkering with a computer is programming, not to be confused with software development. Setting the clock on your home automation system is programming to the Great Old Ones. Bearing that in mind... he's right.

I saw a photo on a home renovation site, with a plumber, in dirty denim overalls, biker beard, and scuffed hard-hat, who had an iPad and an Android phone going at once to install a fixture. The iPad had the installation instructions in .PDF, and he was googling on the phone to make sure the fittings would match up. A plumber, double-fisting the internet while performing his job, and likely doing the job with twice the quality in half the time, because he isn't guesstimating or bodging things to kinda-sorta-work. I'm getting old myself - that amazes and pleases me.

I don't think kids are taught to use technology to its fullest advantage, especially in non-technical fields... this is a real issue.

Financial and technical literacy needs to be at the top of priorities for public education, as kids who know how to manage their money and use their computer will have a much better shot at success in life.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:46 AM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't know a broad swath of "young" people, but am I from the last generation of people which contained individuals who actively rejected computers? I thought it was dumb at the time, but I assume there just isn't a choice like that to be made any longer?
posted by maxwelton at 11:47 AM on February 8, 2012


The "profit" from Joe's make-work job at the steel mill may be society keeping Joe off the street and owning a home.

Great point, but not the way the economy works. We're gonna need a much bigger melt down than 2008 before an economic revolution addresses the fundamental underlying issue: productivity is becoming so high that income inequality is inevitable.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But who is going to take the specifications from the customer to the programmers?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:55 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know a broad swath of "young" people, but am I from the last generation of people which contained individuals who actively rejected computers? I thought it was dumb at the time, but I assume there just isn't a choice like that to be made any longer?

Yes, if we're talking about the middle class and up in the first world. I'm 26 and I'm probably from the last generation where opting out of social networking is a realistic option, forget about opting out of using computers. Even that might be pushing it, I know one guy who doesn't use any social networks whatsoever and that's considered as a slightly odd life choice.

Even 10 years ago in high school there were plenty of teachers who didn't accept hand-written assignments.
posted by atrazine at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reas and Fry had better be getting royalties, is all I'm saying.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:08 PM on February 8, 2012


I don't know what will happen once computers can program themselves

Metafilter comments will be APIC: CPU 0 err000
CLRMEM LDA #$00
TAY
CLRM1 STA (TOPNT),Y
INY
DEX
BNE CLRM1
RTS

+++ NO CARRIER
posted by rough ashlar at 12:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


productivity is becoming so high that income inequality is inevitable.

Don't worry - the lack of high quality energy will lower that productivity.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


geez four panels, trying to make an old fart cry?
posted by morganw at 12:18 PM on February 8, 2012


This is a really weirdly written essay, but does touch on some important things. As our culture is increasingly "systematized" the ability to "program" those systems becomes increasingly important. That skill - and it is a skill - should be more common and widely taught, but as others have pointed out, lots of people just don't have the inclination. Here's the real kicker though... instead of increasing the number of programmers on staff, many organizations are doing just the opposite, replacing their highly skilled programmers and technicians with "business analysts". It's gotten so bad that many corporate IT shops are staffed almost exclusively with BA's that are openly non-technical, and have no interest in being so. This makes perfect sense to the Wall St. bean counters because they see reduced head count and lower labor costs, but it isn't helping these companies build better systems.
posted by spudsilo at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2012


Programming is the new journeyman's certification.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:25 PM on February 8, 2012


Programming is the new shop class.

In the future, everything will be available for free on the internet but no-one will have a job.

Isn't that what we should be working toward?

Too Many Manifestoes
posted by mrgrimm at 12:29 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well the guy is kinda link-baity. His blog pops up on Hacker News just about every other day. Most recently What Level Programmer Are You got a lot of attention.

The guy actually gives talks on F# and FWIW he writes "SCRUM Master" books. I think he probably makes a couple bucks off the blog, and drives traffic by having vaguely provocative titles.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:30 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, so perhaps "programming" is the wrong word. But there are people already addressing this problem. The new buzzword is "computational thinking". Originally coined by Seymour Papert, then recently brought into the forefront by Jeanette Wing, it is now becoming a new AP course for high schools, courses in college, and even the National Research Council is getting involved. The idea is that most jobs / careers for the 21st century will require that people be able to use computing technology to solve problems which often includes becoming a creator of the solution (read programming here anyway you want) versus a consumer of technology. Think about it, everyone from salesmen who must write macros in Excel to graphic artists that write scripts in Photoshop are "programming" in a sense. We need everyone to be computationally literate!
posted by bmorrison at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


computational thinking

I like that. Much better than my "Computer Sense" which kinds sounds like a superpower you get from being bitten by a radioactive computer.

That actually sounds kind of cool though, I'll have to think about this.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you guys find it less objectionable if we use the phrase "technology literate". I'm not really ralking a specific ability to set up TIVO or plug formulas into a spreadsheet. I'm talking about "computer sense" that would allow you to figure out how to get whatever machine you are confronted with to do what you want it to do.

OK, Ad hominem. With that definition in place, "programming" (or better yet, "computer literacy") is the new "driver's license" - which definitely is a requirement for a vast array of jobs (or simply makes getting/keeping the jobs far easier).
posted by IAmBroom at 12:41 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


computational thinking

Sounds like what Eco was talking about when he was thinking about education in the future, memorizing when the Battle Of Waterloo was isn't as important as being able to find that information amid a sea of possibly false, biased data.
posted by The Whelk at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2012


This blog post is silly, but I am sometimes amazed when I deal with people younger than, oh say 40 (and doubly amazed when they are under 30), who are still afraid of computers, in that "I know how to start that one program I use and how to launch the internet* but anything beyond that mystifies me." sense. I do think that being able to use a computer and have a basic understanding of how to sit at a computer and do something beyond follow the exact steps you've been taught in the past is something that without seriously limits many people's careers, even in fields that historically don't have anything to do with computers or offices or whathaveyou.

* First clue that you are dealing with someone like this, they call their browser The Internet.
posted by aspo at 1:03 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


First clue that you are dealing with someone like this, they call their browser The Internet.

Except, they're perfectly correct. The browser delivers the Internet. And the Internet is what they are wanting to access when they launch the browser. Many (most?) people don't give two shits about the browser (or even know which browser they use) The browser is simply the window the Internet appears in. All that matters is they are accessing the Internet. It's the action, not the tool.

It's like when they launch an email client and call it "getting their email". They don't reference it by the app name.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I work with scientists, and every year more and more new scientists show up who have significant programming expertise, and fewer and fewer show up who don't.

Yeah, but they use Perl.

You're not being cynical enough. You'd be amazed what people try to stuff into Excel macros.
posted by gurple at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I felt this way in high school during the dot com boom, but later grew up. I might imagine everyone needed enough math for tuning machine learning system if I were a teenager today.

There is a truth here that programming gives you unimaginable power to positively influence the world, say by writing tools like PGP, Netscape, OtR, ZRTP, BitTorrent, BitCoin, etc., but only if you know where to use it, or get lucky.

I vaguely suspect you're average 40 year old activist has more chance of learning programming than your average programmer has of learning what needs to be done.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2012


Except they get email from The Internet. Netflix on their Roku comes from The Internet. etc etc.

I'm not saying I don't understand why people call their browser The Internet, but it's a pretty good signifier that someone doesn't really have any idea what's going on with their computer.
posted by aspo at 1:17 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an aside, if your a young person wishing to do social justice work, then I highly recommend you consider studying comp. sci., mathematics, physics, etc. Any such knowledge will greatly increase your opportunities for making a difference.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:22 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


One word: Plastics.
posted by dumbland at 2:58 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


rocket88: "He couldn't be more wrong. We're at the point in technology now where more complex devices and applications actually become much easier to use and operate. All those people who couldn't program the clocks on their VCRs are more than capable of telling a voice-activated "intelligent" device what they want it to do."

Which misses his entire point about entire industries being relegated to the role of a user of canned functionality, stagnant because they're stuck with the systems they have. When all systems have an interface that can be made to plug in to other systems, you can do interesting and different things than that which your competitor is doing.

Yes, his definition of programming is liberal, using something akin to (but hopefully less arcane) to an *ix command line with pipes and sed and stuff or writing complicated macros in Excel, not writing Excel from scratch.

In a lot of number crunching type jobs, knowing how to write Excel macros can save you literally days of manual work, so the people that know how to do it are much more effective than those who don't. This isn't the sort of thing you can say "oh, let's hire a programmer to do foo" and be done with it, it's a "you all need to know how to script Excel, because there's not a single general problem being solved" thing.

And yes, sometimes Excel macros are the proper solution.
posted by wierdo at 3:23 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying I don't understand why people call their browser The Internet, but it's a pretty good signifier that someone doesn't really have any idea what's going on with their computer.

But, why should they have any idea what's going on with their computer? It's an appliance in their lives.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It took me five years to get my wife to stop claiming her computer was broken when her problem was that she couldn't get on the internet.
posted by localroger at 3:54 PM on February 8, 2012


All the arguments in here from "people don' wanna!" are kind of funny in a depressing way. People don' wanna do a lot of things they have to do anyway just to feed their families.
posted by DU at 5:19 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The idea that technological progress will inevitably eradicate all "truly dehumanising" labour is so sweetly naive, you almost forget how socially reactionary it is. Peter Frase's recent article, Four Futures, is a much better attempt to discern how machinery, software, and labour will fit together for the coming generations.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 6:02 PM on February 8, 2012


Just follow the goddamn instructions! It's not that hard, I promise!

But some people are not good at following instructions. And it's hard to teach them to follow instructions, because they won't follow your instruction-following instructions either.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:37 PM on February 8, 2012


There is a huge fucking gulf between computer literate and programmer.

I encourage anyone to experiment with coding if that floats your boat. Just like I encourage people to play an instrument, or write a story or participate in a game.

But to make the assumption that coding is the new HS equivalent when it is clearly just another subject that one might want to be exposed to as part of a well-rounded education illustrates that maybe some coders need to go back to school themselves.

Because programming is a multi-disciplinary skill that requires expertise in a wide variety of domains. And the mix of these domains varies widely from shop to shop.

So, instead of putting some lame prescription on shouldas and oughtos, maybe we can focus on helping folks grok basic problem solving, logical thinking, creativity, communication, rhetoric and a life-long love of learning. If they also want to throw specific trades like software development into that mix, great.

Because you really ought to build on those first things before making some prescriptivist statements about the latter.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:40 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Computational literacy should be at the forefront of the minds of those creating high school curriculum. So while it is not the diploma per say, it should be a prerequisite for one.
posted by achpea at 7:49 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nobody who has ever taught programming would argue that programming is the equivalent of a high school diploma. The majority of people just don't think like programmers, and it's not a discipline where you can easily "coast" – failures are too obvious and easily tracked.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:00 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, remember back in the early 2000s and you were going to school for your BS in CS, and everyone was all like, "Oh no, you better watch out, 1000 outsourcing Indians are gonna take your job!" But you went on and got your CS degree anyway, because, hell, in for a penny in for a pound, and besides, it's all you really knew how to do anyway? And now, 8 years later, software development is like the only part of the economy that's actually still working?

Heh.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:32 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


a dentist having a nurse who creates a data mining program

Joke's on you. Dentists don't have nurses.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:10 PM on February 8, 2012


How about "programming is the new literacy"? Thanks, I thought of it all by myself.
posted by newdaddy at 10:49 PM on February 8, 2012


Actually there are many, many folks circling in on the idea that programming *is* part of a new definition of literacy.

I believe people should have basic programming skills, in as much as they have basic writing skills.

NOT simply to 'know how a computer works'. Programing is far more than the act of giving instructions to computers to do things.

The idea isn't to create more programmers/software engineers/computer scientists, just as teaching writing isn't done for the sole aim of creating more authors (although it more easily opens the door). Instead, programming should be taught as a means to explore science, health, social studies, history, and math. Just as reading and writing are. Instead of creating a book report, create an interactive story with visualizations. Maybe work with other students in its production.

Even the most rudimentary programming skills enable us to better communicate with one another, to tell stories, to create our own games, and to better participate in the networked world we live in.

New tools like MIT's Scratch are coming along to make much of this possible. Check it out.
posted by kmartino at 3:56 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well said kmartino! By learning how computing technology is integrated into society and how it can be used to solve problems within multiple domains should be the pre-requisite to joining an educated workforce. Wouldn't it be nice when *everyone* understands why they get a 404 error? When they understand when their connection goes down they didn't "break" the internet? I wish for that future...
posted by bmorrison at 7:10 AM on February 9, 2012


Avenger: "Except that Joe from the steel mill doesn't know how to program and probably can't. He's got an IQ of 92, and that's not going to change."

Why cripple the entire economy to compensate for Joe's economic disadvantage? I think the standard economist response is to allow productivity to rise and use policy to compensate the displaced for their loss. One such method might be to provide a "living wage" to all people via the government, and reallocate cash for poverty support programs into this funnel. Like EIC but bigger and without the work & family oriented bias.

This removes the welfare trap where more earnings yields less benefits, provides a safety net for the unemployed and unemployable, allows employers to invest in productivity (improving the overall economy even if it eliminates Joe's current job), and allocates Joe to whatever is the most economically productive use of his time.

To paraphrase Robert Reich (I think), it's not jobs people want, it's money.
posted by pwnguin at 8:13 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


jedicus: "And anyone who has taught CS 101 (or can remember taking it) can tell you that many people are simply not interested in programming or able to program competently. And that's among college students. What the author proposes is delusional unless there is an enormous reduction in the complexity of computer programming, which has not been accomplished despite decades of trying."

You may have included this in your statement, but don't forget the CS graduates who can't program competently either!

Also I think it's telling that he mentions "programmers over 40". Because the truth is, for him it's like he's saying "You know, from now on you're going to have to be able to swim in water!" and our generation and newer are like fish saying, "Wait, what? Oh, you mean this stuff we are swimming in all the time anyway?"

Also, I think he's sadly mistaken if he thinks that digital fluency is sufficient in order to be employed. America in particular, and the Western world in general, is basically trending away from general employment. Just the fact that a High School diploma once really was sufficient in order to find employment is telling. Now, even a college degree means less and less. Computer illiteracy will obviously be a deterrent to employment, but that is not a new phenomenon. Every generation has its own technologies in which you must be fluent in order to succeed. Almost no one today needs to know how to use a fax machine or how to use a traditional dead-treees filing system but these would have been necessary skills at one point.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:28 AM on February 10, 2012


Actually, steel mills were early adopters of computers. U.S. Steel bought two UNIVACs in 1954.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:19 PM on February 10, 2012


LogicalDash: "Actually, steel mills were early adopters of computers. U.S. Steel bought two UNIVACs in 1954."

Indeed, my dad used to work as a programmer in a steel mill (accounting, not CNC). Turns out programming is more portable a skill than machine work, and when the steel market collapsed in the 80s we just moved to Atlanta where he found work as a consultant, then in South Carolina and again in Kansas. On the other hand, now he's a "programmer over 40" and out of work. But that's more due to personality than economy.

Anyways, if programming is the new high school diploma, then it should be taught to everyone in high schools, rather than just the AP track kids. And that'd require teachers who knew this stuff. I'm totally cool with the Logo and Scratch learn coding environments, but I've tutored teachers-to-be and such a future is grim. All we'll get is a class of students who knows programming because they made a turtle make a square that one time.

You want to do the world a computer literacy favor? Teach them SQL (Access, LibreOffice wtfever) instead of Excel. Every time I have to explain to someone why they just messed up their data when they sorted column F, I die a little on the inside.
posted by pwnguin at 11:03 AM on February 14, 2012


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