re: I have been a professional developer for 31 years and I'm 53 now, Ask Me Anything! VIEW POST

re: Are we making the world a better place? (Are we heading in the right direction?)


If I take that literally, I'm not sure we are making the world a better place. I can point to lots of examples of the Internet and the web both benefiting us as a species (I personally met my wife online 20 years ago, so I'm pretty happy with that :)) as well as hurting us (neo-Nazi's enabled to create echo chambers where they think they're just fine).

However, if you meant, are we making programming better? Oh lord yes. Fewer people can build more in less time and share it with a huge part of the world's population.


I initially meant literally. We set out to have computers and (and software) make things easier for us. In a lot of cases we have made things easier. But as you may every well be aware, with every problem we solve we introduce different kind of problems. Like your example of the Internet. We made it easier for all kinds of people to communicate with each other about anything. But this also exposed everybody to undesirable activity from certain groups. The internet allowed everybody to start their community, but it also allowed large corporation to create powerful control structures. ... But at the bottom line, are we going in the plus, minus, or sort of standing still.

But on the software making angle there is also an interesting point. A bunch of years ago I read Fred Brooks' book "The Mythical Man-Month". (Actually, it was the 20th anniversary release from 1995). In it are observations of pre-1975 software development which I still see around, often unchanged. So in your 30 professional years tools have become more powerful, versatile, and easier to use. But are we becoming better at creating solutions for problems? Are we becoming better for the people involved in creating these solutions? Are Edward Yourdon's observations in "Death march" more and more a thing of the past.

From your perspective of course. You've probably seen and fought your battles.

That's a super difficult question to answer. One I'm tempted to say would fall into the domain of a professional moralist.

I feel like all I can say is that we've made it "different". I've seen pre-computer to post-computer, pre-Internet to post-Internet, and even pre-WWW to post-WWW (too many people confuse those, but lots of us used the Internet long before the World Wide Web showed up). I prefer the latter.

I love that I can make something and share it with everybody. The fact that somebody else can try to be an asshole to everybody simultaneously doesn't ruin it for me. I'm enough of an optimist to feel like the relationships I've made and the communities I've been lucky enough to be part of haven't been outweighed by the bad stuff that has come along for the ride.

Now, I'm not stupid, I know that I'm really lucky. I'm white and male and well educated. I don't come from a family with a lot of money, but I've had more advantages than I can count. So the fact that my experience has largely been one way doesn't mean that others haven't had exactly the opposite. But I guess I hope (perhaps naively) that most people are getting the better experience rather than the worse.

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