THE RISE OF CODERACY

29 FEBRUARY, 2012 — MENLO PARK, CA

This morning I searched for a name to fit my latest project. Music filled my ears as my feet tapped across an empty sidewalk. I could think of nothing worthy. I walked and listened, thought and waited. A new song came, and in its minor key something clicked. I recalled a book I read years ago, small and black with a stark white title: Innumeracy. [1]

People were not numerate, it had said, and that was bad.

As a society, we have several words that describe abilities people should have. The most common of these are “literacy” and “numeracy.” Society says that we should all be able to read and do basic work with numbers. But is that enough? I’m reminded of a Heinlein quote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Heinlein gives us a superset of modern societal expectations, wherein he includes the ability to code. That clicked when I thought of Innumeracy. My mind completed the pattern: literacy, numeracy, coderacy. A project name and a new word. [2]

  • Literacy (n): The ability to read and write.
  • Numeracy (n): The ability to understand and work with numbers.
  • Coderacy (n): The ability to program computers.

Modern educators may disagree, but I think coderacy is a reasonable addition to societal expectations. People should be able to program computers. Programming skills will only become more common and relevant, as years pass. [3]

With that, I suspect you can guess the domain name, if not the purpose, of my new project. More to come soon.

1 It’s by John Allen Paulos, and here’s a link to the amazon page.

2 More on the project, later.

3 Modulo the coming of the Singularity.