Smash the windows?

Sunday 9 November 2003

In a commentary at the Guardian, Dylan Evans argues that we need to get beyond Windows to the code in order to be truly free in the 21st century: Smash The Windows:

As our society becomes ever more dependent on information technology, the gulf between those who understand computers and those who don’t will get wider and wider. In 50 years, perhaps much less, the ability to read and write code will be as essential for professionals of every stripe as the ability to read and write a human language is today. If your children’s children can’t speak the language of the machines, they will have to get a manual job — if there are any left.

What kind of crap is this? You might as well have argued that when printed books came along if you couldn’t run a printing press you were doomed. Or the ascendancy of the automobile meant we’d all have to be mechanics.

Pito Salas makes exactly the opposite point: computers today are about where cars were in 1950, and as the technology progresses, users of it need less and less expertise in the internals.

Tim Bray considers the issue as well, and concludes:

So yeah, we geeks have what you might call a home-field advantage in the online publishing contest: but it turns out not to be decisive.


Its the Guardian, whaddya want? He was told to write a piece to "fuck Micro$oft" and he tried this approach.

My suggestion to folks with a subcription to the Guardian (all 5 of you!): get a parakeet. The Guardian is really used best to line the cagte bottom.
Dylan Evans misses the fact that more and more processor power is being devoted to interfacing naturally with humans. Also any programmer worth his salt solves problems in the human-understandable problem domain, rather than coding at the level at the "language of the machines".

What *will* happen is that as computers and robotics automate away more and more of the tedium that provides an economic and social basis for our modern world, people will only be able to add value (and hence get paid) for doing uniquely human things - tasks that require creativity or relatively substantial amounts of intellect. The big question is how we prepare today's children to contribute effectively in that world.
That article was a load of misguided horse puckey.

I especially liked the addendum that supposedly validates the author's credentials: "The film Matrix Revolutions was in part inspired by Introducing Evolutionary Psychology, by Dylan Evans and Oscar Zarate". And that relates to the article in exactly what way? Is this implying that beng the "inspiration" for the The Matrix makes you an expert on computers?

He did mention the Matrix at one point: "But would you know what to do if all those pretty little icons in your browser disappeared and, instead of Windows, you were left staring at lines of letters and numbers of HTML, the language in which web pages are written? If, like Neo in The Matrix, you could see the code behind the graphics?"

Didn't this guy ever do a "View Source" on a web page? He seems to be about as in awe of programmers as the Cargo Cultists of the South Pacific were of World War II airplanes flying overhead. Bizarre.


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