What you’re about to read is an idea, or rather, a vision of the future of programming that I’ve had in my head for a while. Tonight I got to share this vision with r0ml, a current resident here at RC. He told me that he used to believe the same exact thing. r0ml believed this vision so much that he was about to write a book on it. He had already gotten ahold of a publisher when he read some work from Deborah Brandt that changed his mind.

I haven’t read any of Brandt’s work and it will probably change my mind as well, but before then I want to pen down my thoughts (or should I say ‘press down’…). Here’s my vision:

You see, long, long ago most people didn’t know how to read or write. For the longest time, in many societies, people called “scribes” handled the day to day business of reading and writing for their community. Being a scribe was a noble and highly regarded position. When you wanted to handle contracts, settle a dispute or write a letter to your friend, you would find a scribe and work with them to take care of your business.

Hmm… Does this situation sound familiar by any chance?

In today’s world, when the average person or group wants to work with a computer they go into the wild and find this person called a ‘software engineer’ or ‘programmer’ or ‘whatever,’ and this person helps them make the most of technology. This person, who is in a noble and prestigious place in the societal rank, ensures that his patrons are fully given their due of the modern scribe’s highly-skilled, education-requiring services.

But in the past, everyone learned to read & write and all of a sudden scribes were no more. When was the last time you had to hire someone to write an email to your grandma? Today people are learning programming in elementary, middle, and high school – not just college. There are all kinds of bootcamps to help the everyday person pick up programming. I think very soon we will be in a world where everyone knows how to program just like everyone knows how to read and write**.

But does this mean I won’t be special? Maybe. I don’t know, I’m no Ray Kurzweil here. It doesn’t mean programming will ‘die’ or that programming work will be outsourced to developing countries and no local programmer will have a job. Although almost everyone can read and write we still have professional writers. The average person CANNOT, without proper training, produce the type of work that accomplished authors and journalists produce. In a world where everyone will know how to program and can easily explain to you when to use spanning trees, the professional programmer, like todays professional writers, will be doing something far above that. I’m not sure what the programmer of the future will produce relative to the average person.

r0ml doesn’t believe this sort of vision any more but I told him I will at least write my thoughts before I come to change them. r0ml recommended I check out Brandt’s essays and book, “Literacy and Learning: Reflections on Writing, Reading, and Society”.

** Only in developed countries, and even then in certain areas, does ‘everyone’ know how to read and write.