Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Future of Work: Why Teaching Everyone to Code Is Delusional"

I disagree with the writer in his assumption that learning to code should only be considered in a coder-for-hire scenario.  Being able to use tools is of value and knowing other languages including maths and computer code does interesting and probably useful things to the human brain.
From Singularity Hub:
Since 2005, I’ve been grappling with the issue of what to teach young people. I’ve written curricula for junior high students in the US, for a UNICEF program reaching students in a dozen countries, and now, for East African young people as they become financially literate and business savvy.

Through the years, I’ve watched program directors demand young people focus on foolish content because it lined up with something trending in the public discourse—units on climate change; modules about using social media to share stories; lessons on agricultural policy; and so forth.

What have I learned? The attention of a young person is tremendously valuable. We should stop teaching them whatever makes us feel good and get honest about the next fifteen years.

You may have noticed almost weekly stories in major media outlets about technological unemployment, robots taking our jobs, and the disruptive power of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This is raising public awareness about the transformational decay of the human work-for-pay economy—and it underpins the prevailing enthusiasm for training young people in science and technology.

Globally, much attention has focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) over the last decade or so, with computer science and code receiving ever greater emphasis.

But talks and articles cheerleading the strategy of teaching young people how to create this new technology are a kind of anodyne reaction: a facile solution that supposes that everybody can just build and make and code their way out of the coming joblessness and social restructuring.

A recent TED talk by one of the team is called “Computer Science Is for Everybody,” and it’s wrong.

Hadi Partovi learned how to code at exactly the right time and rode his abilities to the American Dream. That trajectory is available to a smaller and smaller percentage of Earth’s population. He mentions that robots will be flipping burgers and driving trucks; but he misses the point that algorithms are on the way to writing better algorithms too. (See Jeremy Howard’s “The Wonderful and Terrifying Implications of What Computers Can Learn.”)

Recently in Senegal, a young man who I worked with told me he was enthusiastic about learning to code. He didn’t know what programming language to learn, and his math and logic skills aren’t strong; but he’s got the message: young people should code their way to prosperity.

The reality, however, is that he’ll have a hard time competing....MORE
On the other hand I agree completely with his final conclusion.