Eli Cummings

Authored Comments

Societal institutions are inherently conservative. They are meant to maintain stability and order in a society not be agents of change. Human beings in general do not like change. They will give up much for stability.

Despite the lip service given to innovation and creativity, the status quo will do all it can to make sure the powers it has remain in its hands.

It has mystified me for many decades that there is a lack of understanding by individuals of their relationship to the society in which they live. Most people believe the myths that the political philosophy of democracy puts forward and intelligent people often project their intelligence onto a much larger portion of their society than is warranted.

The average person in a society has only an extremely limited and superficial understanding of the world around them. It rarely goes beyond what is news on their favorite website or what they see on their evening news. The average and even the not so average person may have a deep understanding some very narrow subject area but they often fail to realize that the complexities they encounter and the tradeoffs they understand in that area are applicable to every other area of human endeavor as well.

Our most recent evolutionary adaptation has been that we are an animal with a brain that emphasizes technique and humans specialization. It has been the driving force of our most recent history and with the invention of fossil fuel powered machinery, that force went to a whole new level.

We may think of ourselves as individuals as free and in control of our lives but that is not really true. We are not in control of the context that surrounds our lives. That context dwarfs the individual like a beach dwarfs a grain of sand.

We are compartmentalized. We are subjects not kings. The only power people have in a developed society is that which law allows. Law is the code of a society and little if any of it was written by us but there are those who know how to hack it.

Our subjective consciousness makes it as difficult for us to realize that we are part of a very large machine in the same way that our subjective consciousness doesn't present us with the fact that we are on a spinning ball orbiting a sun in a universe of unknown age and size.

History is replete with examples of how shabby our dreams look when they have materialized and we never seem to get the world we think we are creating.

One could institute coding in education from kindergarten on up but there would still be many issues to deal with. Where do we get the people who are going to teach coding ? Those with coding skill aren't going to do it, the pay is not that good. What coding will we teach ? What language ? Anyone who has followed computing for any length of time is quite aware of how rapidly things change and how fast past skills become obsolete or at best become part of a "maintenance" category. Do we think teaching sequential execution, looping and branching will somehow inspire kids to become freedom loving coders ?

Just because I know algebra doesn't mean I'm going to be using it in my daily life or work doing algebra. Most adults who have graduated from high school have had algebra and geometry but unless they are working field where they use it, most of it has been forgotten and rarely if ever drawn upon to solve problems in their daily lives.

Those who want to code will code regardless of what the educational institution serves up to them. Most of those who code will not be that great. Coding will serve the status quo.

My point is don't bother hoping that introducing more IT into schools will somehow change things. It won't. Change doesn't come from within institutions it comes from outside them.

I remember back in the days of the Commodore 64 how there was a big push in education for coding. Bottom line: coding is not for most people. The goal has never been for everyone to code anymore than it has been for everyone to be able to engineer the building of a bridge.

If one doesn't code for a living but still writes some code then that is more like someone who is able to do work around their house without having to always call someone in to fix things.

That is a good thing but not something many people want to do unless they don't have the money to pay someone or they just enjoy the independence that comes from being able to fix one's own problems.

Most people aren't limited by the software they use. In most cases they aren't even aware of all the things the software can do.

Those of us who like technology too often forget that for many people technology is simply and end to a means. They want a black box not an acrylic one where they can see and manipulate all the inner workings.

We forget that even when we are writing some code that we are still using software we ourselves didn't write. I may be able to write an AWK script but I could never write AWK itself. We are all abstracted from the inner workings but just at different conceptual distances.

Most people today can use spreadsheets. We forget that at one time only accounting people really used spreadsheets. At one time most people couldn't type at all now most people can use a keyboard though of course at different degrees of speed and skill.

Technology diffuses through societies and changes the skill set of people regardless of what the state may or may not do in education. In most case the state is not a very good
predictor of what people will need in the future. The state usually serves the status quo.

I'm sure companies would love to see a large increase in STEM people. It will drive down their cost of labor. In America, law schools turn out twice as many law graduates as there are jobs. This is because law schools have convinced people that law school is somehow a "way of thinking" that is applicable in many fields (which is just an assertion of conventional wisdom with no research to back it up but does serve the law schools well). I see in one of the quotes someone mentions "algorithmic" thinking. I would direct people to check out the book "The Formula: How Algorithms Solve all our Problems ... and Create More" by Luke Dormehl.

Coding is a young person's game like engineering. Of course one can always move into systems integration etc. or management but that is not coding.

Another book I would recommend is "Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder, an old book about DEC's creating of the Eagle minicomputer. It provides insight into what advances in technology and the products created demand as far as labor and who does what. The human dynamics haven't changed.

The issues for technology with human beings is not them being able to control their own technology (no one has that except in small doses) but rather how technology shapes the lives of people without them being aware of it, how it alters the relationships of people to each other and to the institutions of their societies. That would be a course worth introducing into education.