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Can you think of a profession where practitioners work relentlessly to obsolete their own jobs?
Strategy / Feb 14th, 2021 9:29 pm     A+ | a-
I can only think of one, software development.
 
In the almost six decades I have been involved in the computer industry I watched each new generation with its, naivete proclaimed the virtues of "no code" software development applications. There has not been a revolutionary idea among them. They have developed computer programs that write other computer programs that ultimately write programs that computers understand.
 
First, let us consider how digital computers work. They only understand few basic instructions like add, subtract, and, or, combine and move information, these basic instructions are delivered to them as a sequence of one's and zeros. That's it. This is the way they worked in 1950, and they work exactly the same way in 2021. Nothing magic, simply evolutionary. They are a fine example of value engineering. A $300 cell phone of today is thousands of times more powerful than the 1960s $10,000,000 dollar computer system that required a special 4,000 square foot room and devoured $10,000 / month electricity. Nothing revolutionary, just faster and cheaper.
 
Shortly after I joined IBM in 1962 I attended a meeting where a visionary gave a talk about hardware and software expenditures. He said the average large company budget for data processing was divided, 90% for hardware and 10% for software. He then stated these numbers would reverse in the not too distant future. We all laughed. History proved him correct and then some.
 
What if I said software costs will eventually approach zero. Would you laugh? 
 
Since those early days, almost six decades ago, the software industry has been writing programs that assist them in writing programs, all the while striving to create the ultimate platform that would obsolete the need for software developers. This trend has caused stratification within the profession, from those who work close to the hardware to those individuals who interface with the people who will use the application. Each "software developer" in this technology chain uses software, that was developed by the group just below them to assist in accomplishing their professional duties. Standing on the shoulders of giants.
 
What if all our computers were as smart as Alexa? We wouldn't need any programmers we would just tell her what we think we want and she would create the application. We could fine-tune our needs by having additional conversations. People who need computers to do something would engage in a dialog with the computer. That sounds great but someone had to program Alexa to be so smart. Maybe not. In her spare time, Alexa could improve her education by reading every book ever written on computer science, then have meetings with other Alexa's on the Internet to share their experiences and improve each other.
 
That's where we are going. Software developers should be proud of themselves, having been the first profession to obsolete themselves.
 
1 COMMENTS
Larry D.
#1
Feb 15th, 2021 10:26 pm
I have always found from conversations with you in the past, that your observations are not only intriguing but very informative.
Looking forward to more blogs from you to distract me from my mundane life of playing golf and binging Netflix during these days of Covid.
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