This week US President Obama got behind the idea that everyone should learn to write computer
Well, writing code for one’s future job is a good message but not the most important, IMHO. The real pay off is that by writing a little computer code one gets a visceral experience of how passive the computer really is. It brings home the idea of “garbage in, garbage out” because the coder actually puts the garbage in. It inoculates the public against service providers’ claims that the computer is the reason you can’t get what you want because the computer won’t let the provider offer the service. S.M.O.P. folks! It’s a small matter of programming. The experience of coding drives home the concept that coding isn’t the basis of problem solving, properly stating the problem and then analyzing it comes first. And that is done by people, not machines.
Obama is on the right track but he got it wrong. Not everyone can or should become a computer scientist. But everyone will have to become a wise consumer of computer-delivered services. Unless we become a smart, computer-literate electorate we will find ourselves victims of tyranny by the people behind the machine. That’s why we need everyone to learn to code – just enough to understand the benefits and threats of this ubiquitous technology.