I sort of think the notion of software development as this highly intellectual field is kind of flimsy.
It's an odd conversation and I think it's hard to, as you put it, find objective evidence, but I just think the organization of labor where we pay often pay so much more than other fairly skilled professionals is not necessarily an idea that will be around for the long haul.
The book Thinking, Fast and Slow permanently broke certain assumptions I had about technical expertise.
And along those lines, I do think and even hope that large portions of software development do become blue collar work. As to whether it becomes so in a way that is worker-friendly or not, it remains to be seen.
"software development" is too general, there is a lot of different fields that require different skills in Software Development, some which may one day be blue collar but some may not be. CS derives from mathematics which is considered a highly intellectual field. Generalizing all development work into "software development" can be the equivalent of generalizing "construction". You can be an electrical engineer, an architect or maybe someone who just paints walls and be in "construction". I do think that some lower level work will one day be more "blue collar" work but i don't think the entire field itself will be, things will get easier as we continue to develop the field and create more layers of abstraction but i think it wont lose its status as an intellectual field just like mathematics has never lost it.
I think the reason that the pay gap is so large compared to other industries is that programming itself is such a low-level skill - similar to reading, writing, or math - and it has a very poor distribution within society.
In centuries past, those who could read or perform basic math were given great rewards for low-level skills; one of the most privileged of them all were the Scribes of Ancient Rome, Scribes became a member of the royal court and were exempt from both taxation and physical labor; this was the case despite that just a couple of hundred miles away Socrates demonstrated that even an uneducated slave child could teach themself math without much effort or help. How did society's relationship with reading, writing, and math recently change? Universal public education, this practice made sure that all young children could learn literature and math and this education made these skills more defuse in our society; this turned the Scribes of ancient history into modern-day librarians. Universal public education didn't make everyone literary or math geniuses, but it did make some and it also collectively raised all of our standards of living.
So, why is the market for programming jobs in its current state despite the fact that it is simple for a child to teach themself these skills?
It is because very few choose the path of programming of their own volition; the only people that do pursue programming it usually happened to be that they were exposed to it through their personal life outside of their education. The solution to bridging this gap is to include programming in our children's education which will make the skill of programming more defuse in society. This will not make everyone extreme programmers, but it will make some and it also will collectively raise all of our standards of living.
Programmers think they are smart and their field is high educational because they are well rewarded and praised by others; this was also the case for the Scribes, but, in retrospect, all that they could do was read well.
The answer to your question will come in the form of the beliefs of our future generations; personally, I think that most of them will regard us just like we regard Scribes. The worst of us they might compare to the worst of the Scribes who hoarded their wealth and power for greed instead of trying to educate the public and move society forward with their generosity.
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