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Aat van Rees #Web Development

Theory versus Reality

What do computer programmers, software engineers and developers just "get" that other people don't?

What software engineers “get”, that most people really don’t, is that building software is HARD.


It’s amazing to me how many articles I see confidently asserting that software is getting easier to build, computer science is on the way out, and now at long last is the time of the humanities major. 


The funny thing is: people have been saying some variation of this for the past 50 years. First it was high level languages, then visual programming, which never took off and now it’s "AI".


Apparently the world is convinced coding is a solved problem because Google’s voice assistant can book appointments for you.


The underlying assumption here, of course, is that the difficulty of “programming”, or building software in general, is in translating your solution to the problem into code.


There have been many snake oil salesmen claiming to have found the "silver bullet", and yet software has, if anything, only gotten more complex, not less. 


I understand why this perception exists. 

To the layman, the only thing they know about software is that you need to use these “programming languages” to build them. And once you know the language, they suppose, you can pretty much do it all.


The irony, as I see it, is that this new wave of willful computer ignorance only goes to show just how important it is that the next generation of students are exposed to computer programming at some point during their educations. 


It may be comforting for some people to tell themselves that this seemingly difficult thing they don’t understand is actually only a few GitHub commits away from being solved, and that their chosen discipline is the wave of the future. 


But for those of us on the inside, it’s only looking worse for people without a strong background in quantitative reasoning and knowledge of computer systems.


Written by Travis Addair, Senior Software Engineer II at Uber


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