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?"
Thread beginning with comment 546427
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
What is vs what could be vs what will be
by kwan_e on Thu 27th Dec 2012 14:12 UTC
kwan_e
Member since:
2007-02-18

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

Congratulations to all those telling it how it is, but that is near to useless in predicting what will be. Even if most people are psychologically not disposed to maths and the sciences, the fact is most people in the first world today on average knows more about basic maths, the sciences, and even literacy than people just over a hundred years ago. Average intelligence increases.

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.

One reason I mentioned previously - the potential availability of private manufacturing like in "Diamond Age".

Another reason is the trend towards automation in all physical jobs and the outsourcing of all other menial low skill jobs. Pretty soon, "entry level" jobs will be about being able to program basic automation of tasks and maintenance.

I think it's going to happen, and either society keeps up by updating the education system, or risk widespread unemployment and unrest.

Reply Score: 3

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

kwan_e,

Our culture is openly embracing technology as a means of life. I'll side with you in that for me there's no doubt that kids are smart enough to learn how to program it (given the proper education foundations, which is by no means a given).

However there are some roadblocks too. Children are being introduced to technology as fashionable bling instead of programmable tools. Worse still, today's popular consumer devices are becoming *less* programmable than their predecessors, which are threatening to displace open computing technologies at home.

Looking past these roadblocks, I have to wonder if there's any need for a significant percentage of the population to know programming. What would that get us? If half the population could program, wouldn't most of them be overqualified for the menial jobs they end up getting? Many of us are already overqualified today, meaning our advanced degrees are not being put to great use.

Reply Parent Score: 2

kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Looking past these roadblocks, I have to wonder if there's any need for a significant percentage of the population to know programming. What would that get us? If half the population could program, wouldn't most of them be overqualified for the menial jobs they end up getting? Many of us are already overqualified today, meaning our advanced degrees are not being put to great use.


I have addressed that problem specifically. Menial jobs are getting automated - slowly for now, but it's happening and can only accelerate.

Warehousing is becoming automated obviously (eg Amazon's robotic warehouse with robots zipping around at 40km/h). Industrial manufacturing is getting better automated. Shopping centres are moving towards self service, and more and more people are just ordering things over the internet (the dotcom dream wasn't dead, just resting). Google is developing driverless automobiles. Roomba. The list goes on.

Today's device aren't too programmable, but as we can see, things like the iPad and Android are able to make the possibility of programming available to a wider group of people but that's beside the point. Programming will become a menial job.

I'm not saying the average person will write in Java or C++ or C# or one of the functional languages. There will probably be domain specific languages that are less powerful that would be easy enough for it to be common knowledge like maths is today.

Reply Parent Score: 2

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.

Reply Parent Score: 3

kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

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


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

I posit my opening line, and your opening means you've completely missed the point, as my opening line continues to predict.

"IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN", is not idealism. At best, it's a prediction, one way or another. A prediction is not an ideal.

We can all be old men decrying the falling standards and how the past was better and everything is worse. Strange how the best times coincides with our developmental years or a short time after and everything since is the work of the devil...

"Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common."

Reply Parent Score: 1

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

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

But that's how progress works, not "downward trend" - we devise new ways to augment our bodies, including new prostheses of the mind (like books replacing memorisation of everything). So that some of us can move on to new challenges.

Reply Parent Score: 2