Why should I learn to code?
I read a lot that we should all be learning to write code, to programme computers.
I work at the Government Digital Service — coders are key to vastly improving (“transforming”) not only public services but, ultimately, I hope, the fundamental relationship between people and their government. So I get that we need (lots more) coders and that coding is cool.
My kids (3 and 1) should learn to code, just as they should learn about the other building blocks of our world — how food grows, how society works, what politics and power are, how their house and belongings is made.
But do I personally need to learn to code, for me, right now? Me who turns 41 this weekend and is currently quite happy with the digital tools out there that let me create stuff, be it photos, social media content, websites via Wordpress, or rants via Medium? I mean I can do “10 print “Ben”, 20 go to 10", and as a kid I wrote a ‘choose your own adventure’ type game on my dad’s Apricot. You could climb out of my bedroom window into a tree, and fly from it all the way into the park half a mile away. It was a fun game. But why develop those early skills further, now?
And anyway, won’t coding be redundant before long (“as essential as cursive handwriting”) as computers get better at being programmed?
The skills to navigate the web, it’s information and tools, to decent effect — that I get. I have those skills, and without them I would be less well off in terms of social life, family connectivity, finance, democratic inclusion, knowledge and entertainment. But how am I less well off for not being able to code? How will I be less well off for not being able to code in 20 or 40 years’ time?
Learning something new, being part of a community, seeing a creation of mine working — these are good things of course, and why not coding for them, I suppose. But also why not cooking, volleyball, gardening, yoga, DIY, carpentry or tree surgery? I can see far more value in that short list than anything I could programme a computer to do. Unless I could programme it to cook, garden, yoga, DII or tree surgeon. But then what would I do? All those things sound like things I’d like to be able to do myself, thank you.
I know I’m missing something, and being old-minded. I’d love someone to open my eyes on this one.