Coders Needed: Uncle Bill Wants YOU!

education kidAccording to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates…”the world of programming probably has to evolve if we’re going to accomplish some grander goals such as large, complex systems spanning entire industries. There are more programmers and they’re better than they were 10 or 20 years ago, but there is no objective metric by which someone could say the state of the art has significantly improved. Things have changed, Gates said, but there’s still serious work to do on knowledge representation and logic representation, among other things.”

Programmers are the architects and engineers of the digital age.  It is a commonly held belief that anyone in the so-called digital generation (in other words, anyone under 35) is comfortable using technology.  This could not be further from the truth.  Many members of the computer generation are as uncomfortable using a computer as most seniors.  (Many seniors, on the other hand, are very comfortable using technology.)  I, as a computer educator, see a broad spectrum of skill levels in today’s youth.  I teach Java and C coding to high school kids as well a basic hardware course.  Many of the kids I see are growing up digitally illiterate.  They are technology posers.  Most can manage a Facebook post or put pictures on Insta-gram but that is the limit of their skill.  They can’t build things.  What keeps the digital world turning is the production of new content.  New code, new information, or fresh material must be produced constantly.  New frameworks must be built.  New services must be discovered and provided.  Today’s young people are not being adequately prepared for their role in the rising “Information Economy.”

We need to place an emphasis on coding and code creation.  We need to teach algorithmic thinking as a method for problem solving.  We need to modify our system of education to meet the needs of a digital society.  If we fail to do so then we will find ourselves at the back of the social and economic pack, so to speak.  The first-world economic model is leaning more and more on information and information gathering as a means of generating wealth.  We predict market trends and society’s needs based on data gathered from the world around us.  Data mining and targeted marketing are the best methods for building a customer base.  If we don’t have people to build and maintain the databases, gather and collate the data, and format the reports, then the digital sales machine grinds to a halt.

Talented programmers are a valuable commodity.  As technology integrates itself more and more into everyday life, people who can create it will become even more valuable.  As things change, we need people who can adapt to change.  The world, and particularly the economy,  changes too quickly for reaction.  We must be able to predict and be preemptive in order to be successful.

“We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition”
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition    

Pattern recognition, on a global scale, in only possible through data gathering and manipulation on a global scale.  This is only possible through technology.  To manipulate data and technology, we need programmers.  We need to produce them or we will have to hire them from some other place and send our money there.

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2 thoughts on “Coders Needed: Uncle Bill Wants YOU!

  1. While I agree that the art of programming needs to be overhauled, I don’t think the solution is teaching everyone to code or at least become more computer literate (which is what I assume you’re implying when you say “modify our system of education to meet the needs of a digital society”.)

    The reason most industries are going to be dominated by programmers in the future is not the result of IT expanding, only that most others job types will be contracted. When McDonald’s replaces their cashiers and cooks with iPads and robots, they might need a few more programmers, but they’re not going to transform those minimum wage employees into programmers, even if those workers had the skill set.

    Reply
    • I mean modify our educational system to teach, at least the basic ideas (eg. algorithmic thinking and problem solving, object oriented theory, fundamental theories of how and why technology works) to everyone and coding to anyone willing to learn. I worked for nearly 20 years in the field at a large telecom company (not a primary software producer but we generated a lot of “in-house” code) 80% of our programmers were Indian, Pakistani, or Russian citizens on work visas. A lot of the money they made left the country when they went home. These guys (and girls) had been coding since middle school and were very good at it. We need to recruit from our own pool of talented coders (or potential coders anyhow) and keep those jobs in country.

      Reply

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