Ethan Fast

The Rise of Coderacy

29 February, 2012 -- Menlo Park, CA

Today I recalled a book I read years ago, small and black with a stark white title: Innumeracy1.

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. It’s easy to complete the pattern: literacy, numeracy, coderacy.

Modern educators may disagree, but I think more people should be able to program computers. These skills will only become more common and relevant, as years pass2.

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. Modulo the coming of the Singularity.