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Programming

July 10, 2013

programmingTechnology is here to stay, and those of us working in this business probably realize more than most people how dependent and integrated our lives are with technology. Even in countries that don’t have the infrastructure or economies of first world nations are using more and more technology in their lives. Mobile technology seems to be at the forefront of much of what we do, but I’d argue that data is fast becoming more important than the software itself.

The one thing I’m becoming more convinced of is that this article is right: programming is a core skill. It doesn’t matter if you’re a developer building mobile apps, or a contractor scheduling workers, or a homemaker that wants to balance a budget. While there is software that might help, it seems many people are quick to open a spreadsheet, add some data, and start building formulas. These days the jokes about people not understanding how to program a timer on a DVR are fading quickly as more and more non technical people are using technology to make their lives easier, or perhaps, more complex, as they manipulate data and software.

I suspect the fundamental skill of logically analyzing a problem and coming up with a set of steps to solve it is becoming more important all the time. In many businesses the ability of workers to think for themselves and handle a variety of situations is more desirable than the ability to follow orders. Even in industries where workers need to follow instructions, those instructions might be coming from computers more and more often. There will be a huge gap between workers that can think for themselves, perform data manipulation and make business decisions and those who cannot. That gap might take the form of compensation differences, opportunities, or something else, but in many industries, those that can build their own programs, whether in code or processes they follow, will advance faster and further.

Not everyone will want to be a computer developer, but most everyone can benefit from understanding how calculations and instructions can be chained together to build a process or workflow. With newer generations becoming familiar and comfortable with technology from early ages, my vote would be that we should add programming to the three Rs for future generations.

Steve Jones

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3 Comments
  1. Very interesting perspective. Do you think the concept would “sell” better as a core competency if we generalized it to learning iterative thinking? Once you have the ability to handle a problem or task in an iterative manner (as opposed to trying to swallow it whole or bat it away w/the first thing that comes to mind), you can handle all sorts of challenges.

  2. Rebranding is certainly an idea. Perhaps that, problem analysis, or something else to help people think in a more workflow/flowchart/iterative step driven manner.

  3. Mark Tillman permalink

    That’s interesting, and I don’t disagree. That would help the US compete since it’s clear that most of us don’t want to be in the manual labor business.

    Plato thought that philosophy should be taught at a high school level. Strictly speaking, that doesn’t happen today. But I think they do teach some sorts of critical thinking and logic (or at least logical thinking through math).

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