Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Dec 2012 10:19 UTC, submitted by anonymous
General Development "Computers are ubiquitous in modern life. They offer us portals to information and entertainment, and they handle the complex tasks needed to keep many facets of modern society running smoothly. Chances are, there is not a single person in Ars' readership whose day-to-day existence doesn't rely on computers in one manner or another. Despite this, very few people know how computers actually do the things that they do. How does one go from what is really nothing more than a collection - a very large collection, mind you - of switches to the things we see powering the modern world?"
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TM99
Member since:
2012-08-26

I think the point is being missed: whether it's a good a idea or not, it's probably going to happen.

No, not everyone is going to be a programming genius. That's not my argument at all. My argument is that, for good or bad, basic understanding of programming will be expected. Just like basic maths and basic literacy.


Your idealism just doesn't match with the reality of the last 40 years of computing.

Yes, in my generation, everyone who used a computer had to learn even the basics of programming or you simply couldn't use the device. This might have carried on into the early 1990's. But then it started changing.

Kids don't need to know nor will they ever need to know computer programming. They will learn, as they do now, how to use their devices like a car or an appliance. They will learn how to download songs via iTunes 16. They will learn how to do a Power Point presentation in Office 27.

Computing is moving towards greater and greater levels of lock-down and vertical walled gardens where two major companies, Apple & Microsoft, will control the hardware & the content, oh I mean software. Linux, even though I use it and love it, is an after-thought for most people. Android is terrific and can offer a higher level of customization, however, few ever root their devices other than to simply load a game that won't otherwise run on their older model.

As to your points, the level of basic maths is atrocious compared to previous generations at least in America. In part, this is because of technology. Slide rules gave way to calculators which have given way to computers. Cashiers rarely calculate change in their heads when their POS tells them exactly how much to give back.

The same holds true for basic literacy. As the son of two university professors of English, I definitely am aware of the changes here. No one writes letters anymore and rarely do they even do a full email. It is about texting, texting, and more texting. Have you seen the new Shakespeare transliteration done in 'text speak'? Wow, is all I can say, just fucking wow!

Higher levels of automation lead to lower levels of intelligent & creative use of the technology. The same is true for highly specialized technology. When radios ran on tubes, more 'users' could and did fix and augment their devices. As radios began to be increasingly more specialized with ic's and transitors, fewer 'users' could and would even attempt to fix their devices. A great example of this is looking at weaving and textile mills at the birth of the industrial age. Previously, weavers had higher levels of training and education including extensive internships or apprenticeships. They developed high levels of skill and creativity. Then things became automated. Large mills replaced the small tailors and weavers. Trying to say that the men, women, and children who ran those machines were more intelligent and as equaled skilled at weaving, sewing, or creating textiles is ridiculous. They simply were not. The same is holding true for where ever computers and computing automation have taken over.

Public education, at least in America, is trending downwards in its level of intelligence and academic challenge not only in the sciences but also the arts. I was an academically gifted high school student. I had available math classes from algebra 1 through algebra 3 & trigonometry through pre-calculus and calculus 1. By the time I reached college, I was ready for higher level math classes even if they were not a part of my major. I get college interns and graduate students at my workplace today many of whom never had beyond algebra 2 in high school. Frankly, it shows in the lower level of technical skills and critical thinking compared with those of us as their supervisors from a previous generation.

Can society change this downwards trend? Will they? If history teaches us anything, then the answer is usually no.

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