Programming is the new literacy

Chris Granger has a post ironically titled “Coding is not the new literacy.” It’s pretty good. Despite the early part where he attempts to redefine literacy in order to have a catchy title:

This is certainly accurate, but defining literacy as interpreting and making marks on a sheet of paper is grossly inadequate. […snip…] …composition and comprehension. And they are what literacy really is.

So if you ignore that bit, it goes back to, in effect, arguing that programming is the new literacy:

Reading and writing gave us external and distributable storage. Coding gives us external and distributable computation.

I think the probable source of his disconnect is that he’s working on Yet Another “hey, maybe people should program without actually programming, so let’s call it modeling and then make a gui to click on and,” and well, I don’t really need to know more, that’s going nowhere.

I’m definitely 100% on the side of programming being necessary to have any level of higher communication between human and computer beyond pointing and grunting. Language is the highest form of communication between humans and there’s no reason to believe this isn’t true between humans and computers as well.

The trouble for bringing programming to the masses isn’t that we’ve stubbornly insisted on writing code in a programming language as the way to do it. It’s that our languages, tools, platforms, and so forth are all basically crap. Programming is legit pretty stupid, and we have to put up with a lot of mistakes we can’t seem to actually fix. Mistakes piled on other mistakes, that require us to make still further mistakes.

Granger ends with referring to Alan Kay. Kay is someone I also agree with in the sense that he’s identified the right problem. Unfortunately, Kay is also someone I think proposes solutions (or at least, suggests directions in which to find solutions) that are… also quite incorrect.

Ultimately, I think this is the real issue. We don’t need prophets to tell us what the new One Correct way is. We need to be able to just fix our past mistakes. Just the ability to not be married to designs and ideas we invented 30 years ago, and realized were garbage 25 years ago, but still persist because we’re unable to change anything.

That’d be nice.

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One Response to Programming is the new literacy

  1. Pingback: Human-computer interaction and programming | Generic Language

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