Eric Armstrong wrote:
> ...Morgan Stanley is saving money -- so
> much money that they're able to hire open-source
> developers on a contract basis to add features
> to their systems
Interesting, isn't it? And not only for business, Eric! I have felt for many,
many years that it is important that programming ought be taught in schools.
Allow me to quote from my Fleabyte course I conducted for college teachers
One major inequity of incomputency must be helplessness felt by those not
able to assess and protect themselves against the influence of those in
control of machine computation. They may accomodate themselves to this
circumstance in the short run, but this does not necessarily eliminate
stronger shocks in the long term as the computer's influence gradually pushes
them off to the side or intrudes on them in some other manner and with
Another aspect of incomputency will be the utter dependence on programs
written by others, programs that are not understood by their users. This will
be increasingly strongly felt if and when personal computing becomes a more
valued part of our daily lives as reading and writing are now. With an eye to
making personal choices I once wrote that "a close electronic assistant for
our neural brain can help us quickly sift chaff from wheat and do so any time
we want it to. However, to employ such help we must know how to use it. And
that includes knowing how to program, believe it or not.
"Those not skilled in reading and writing are more likely to be n the
control of others. Unless we know how to make and READ programs, we shall
perforce depend on programs made by others - experts, presumably, at writing
programs - and, if we are lucky, experts also at solving exactly those
problems we happen to encounter. THEIR algorithms will solve OUR problems
the way THEY see them - or, and here is a mean rub, WISH TO SEE THEM. There
will be no opportunity to amend a computer program to suit one's very own
personal needs, to solve problems in one's own way. Future-God shall be the
Programmer. And insofar we have not been brainwashed yet, we shall be soon.
"Programmer, Thy Will Be Done." [I wrote this for "Literacy Across The
Curriculum," Dawson College, Nov. 1, 1987.]
Like personal writing, personal computing is likely to bring a variety of
benefits. Most obvious, one might expect, are those bearing on personal
education. Then there are potential social benefits. Imagine how more
comfortable Canadians might have felt if they had been able to make personal
computer-aided assessments of the pros and cons of the proposal for free
trade between Canada and the United States during the 1988 election
campaign. One may well regard that election an early example of the need for
making better choices faster and from palettes that offer in-creasingly
complex assortments of facts to scrutinize.
It is heartening to observe that the need for individual adaptation of
programs is felt by others as well. "Software," I recently read, "can be
made so simple that computer owners can modify programs to their taste
without knowing anything about bits and bytes. 'Our whole interest,' says
Apple's Kay, 'is letting ordinary people make tools for themselves. In the
future you'll get an application out of the box and, after a couple of
weeks, you'll have some ideas and change it.'" [Newsweek, Oct. 24, 1988]
But did you notice that ominous word!? The word "ordinary"? That would not
by any chance be akin to "functionally incomputent," [cf "functionally
illiterate"] now would it?
P.S. I wonder how Alan Kay followed through on what he said in 1988.
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