Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Argument For Learning How To Code

Technology develops rapidly, and the world is abuzz constantly with new ideas. Software developers are the backbone that allow all of this progress to take place. The Global Developer Population and Demographic Study by Evans Data Corp. reports that there are 18.2 million software developers worldwide. This is a small portion of the population, responsible for the technology that impacts so many consumers' lives.

The technology is pervasive. Many of our day-to-day functions have been and continue to be transferred to a digital format. For people as young as toddlers, to people who have only seen computers for a fraction of their lives, it is impossible to function without some computer interaction. But is learning how to use the computer as far as these day-to-day functions enough? Is it necessary to learn the inner workings of the applications on which we rely so heavily?

In 2013, we were producing 2.5 exabytes, or 2.5 billion gigabytes, of data every day, according to a study by IBM. This number grows exponentially every year. So much information about each one of us is being sent through cyberspace. But what percentage of the population is really understanding what that data is, where it's being sent, how it is being transferred, and why it has such a high value attached to it? When so many people have to spend so much time to learn how to perform the basic operations on computers and smart phones, they are not encouraged to learn more. It's not a requirement to understand how the software is working in order to use it, so people rarely look further.

This data captures the reality of what humanity is doing every day, what they're thinking and feeling, and even how their bodies are working. This information could be used to conduct major sociological studies that reveal patterns in society that have not yet been recognized. It could be used to create policy and legislature that is based on true statistics, in order to create a better society as a whole. As more technology is being distributed to the masses, this data could be used to improve that technology to work better for us, and to better protect our true interests. However, it is mostly being used to better target advertising. If more people were a part of the conversation about this data, would we be doing more things that improve our quality of life? Even more importantly, if more people understood how this data is being moved and how it is being used, would we be coming up with solutions to better protect our privacy, and secure our personal information?

Working in technology, we so often forget how much of the population is in the dark, viewing their experiences with web and mobile applications as a sort of magic. We also forget that most of the population has been told that the technologies they are using every day are too complicated to understand. They're being told to leave it to the developers, and that as consumers, they don't need to know how the apps that they are buying into are working. This is discouraging people from taking ownership of the future.

But does everyone need to be able to code? To be honest, probably not everyone needs to be writing code on a daily basis. However, it is critical that people who engage with technology have some understanding of how it is working. Exposure to at least basic coding is important in creating the foundational comprehension of how the world of technology operates. Through learning how to code, the way people understand technology, and think about the world, transforms. The more people learn about technology, the more people are thinking about how we can use it to solve problems.  Even if everyone isn't coding every day, to have the knowledge of how it works allows people to move forward as quickly as technology does: very, very quickly. This is why it is crucial that we begin introducing coding to young, developing minds, while they're at their creative peak! 

While not everyone will become a software engineer, and it is not reasonable to expect everyone to have the skills of one, the importance of being exposed to coding cannot be understated. No one should feel like they are incapable of learning about the technology that they are using. We need to encourage creators and consumers alike to be a part of the technology community, so that we can address real problems together, and create optimal solutions.

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