Programming is the New Literacy

This has been said before, but it becomes more true and more relevant every day: by 2016, programming is the new literacy.

This is particularly true (and important) in the economic aspect. Being able to program in some sense (even if you’re not actually doing it yourself) is gradually becoming the benchmark differentiating between productive, employable individuals and… everyone else.

This may sound offensive to some, but it is an undeniable reality that by now is evident in the job market. One programmer can often create (or maintain) tools that replace multiple non-programmers. This is gradually but inexorably everywhere: what once was manual data processing or rote execution is ever-evolving; our tools are getting more and more sophisticated and software can replace more and more people, as automation seeps into everything. Creativity, learning, NLP — these tasks are better and better handled by abstracting and automating them; i.e. — software.

Programming is the lingua franca of 21st century productive humans. It is the defining skill that is propelling us a quantum leap forward in terms of productivity — it is the new literacy.

If you understand and relate to the above, please consider the implications of being literate in programming; compare it to the implications of being literate in the original sense — being able to read.

Literacy is a huge gap. Please consider, if you are able to read, what you would think about someone who cannot read at all (or can only read at a basic level):

Consider the intricacies, nuances and beauty that they cannot appreciate. From Shakespeare to Harry Potter; from Twitter to Quora; from the NYT to the Bible. Homophones and acronyms and capitalization. Font families and sizes. Semicolons. All of this content and all these issues are blank and incomprehensible to the non-literate individual — they may have heard about it, perhaps they can even partake in a discussion about it, they may have opinions about it. But these are the sad opinions of the uninformed; an illiterate person cannot discuss text in any relevant sense, nor its importance.

Even worse, an illiterate person might have opinions on the importance of literacy itself — without massive peer pressure, they might think it doesn’t make that much of a difference. As literate individuals, we know that it does.

Consider the productive deficiency of such an individual in a modern society. Consider how you might treat them as a professional: it is problematic to treat an illiterate individual or employee as being able to fully contribute at the same level as a literate one. This is obvious to anyone who can read, and is true even if the employee’s role is not primarily a ‘reading’ role: being literate is both a social signal as well as a basic tool whose presence gives the bearer a skill-set clearly setting them apart from those who lack it.

This doesn’t mean everyone has to be able to program — Not at all. But ask yourself how you feel about someone who cannot read.

Don’t be illiterate — learning the basics of programming has never been more accessible or more important. Literally.