From a thread on Hacker News the other day comes this great description of why software coders (developers) are so highly valued right now. This was in response to an article asking what, exactly, was the value that coders bring to society.
What a software developer creates with a few keystrokes looks to the lay person now as “magical” as creating a sword out of a pile of rocks looked to a lay person a thousand years ago. They get the general concept and see the value, but they have no idea of how it actually happened and cannot repeat it themselves. By today’s standards, most of what artisans of old made is not very desirable if it is made today (antiques not withstanding), hence only very few “artists” are actually paid well.
Most people engaged in artisanal work are now in what we call 3rd world countries and make zilch. The reason behind this, is that technology has progressed and most of this stuff can be made faster, cheaper and more consistent by a manufacturing process.Today, we can take the best artisan of old, and copy him/her a million times over to produce the same trinket, with little extra expense.
Software engineering has not yet gone through a true manufacturing disruption. We cannot put software on the kind of assembly line/stamping process we can with say door hinges or other metal works that used to require a skilled blacksmith. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen some day. (link)
Last fall I did some work for a startup helping them import several gigabytes of business data into their database. I was working with a non-technical employee who was manually fixing errors. The enormity of the programmer’s power became clearer to me: he could fix a few hundred entries in a day, and I would spend the day crafting code that would run at night. I’d hit the “go” button as I left, and a hundred entries would be fixed before I could alt-tab to by email. A million entries fixed by midnight. It’s a pity that programming isn’t taught sooner in school; kids who don’t have it will be like kids a hundred years ago who didn’t learn to read or write.
(Sword photo by Søren Niedziella)