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> Would we want to change either of these things? Surely no one is going to argue that we should prefer lower factor productivity.

Try imagining these things happening for, say, doctors, civil engineers or something else that matters. I'm sure many are going to argue that we should prefer lower factor productivity.

That's already true of doctors. The barriers to entry to being a GP are lower than those to being a neurosurgeon. Like building rails websites has lower barriers to entry than writing code for the Mars rovers. In fact, if you so much desire, you can set up a homoeopathy practise without a degree in medicine.

JPL doesn't have particularly brilliant programmers, but they do have methodical, conservative, reliable programmers who test even the simplest systems extensively.

That sounds like the best possible programmers out there.

So what would the brilliant programmers do?

In my mind, brilliance is associated with (successful) innovation. One can innovate in two basic ways, in methods or products. For example, Rails is an innovation in method. The webapp itself (however it was written) is an innovation in product. Both kinds of innovation do occur at JPL (they've created a substantial toolset around Eclipse, actually, and are pushing into Cloud computing in a serious way), but the nature of the space-based/rover projects (years between "qa" and "production") means that those programmers are prized for their high skill and low tolerance for risk.

This isn't something to be happy about. We trust those that practice medicine have been properly trained and rely on a well established body of knowledge. Human lives and health are placed in the hands of this person. Much different than someone building a rails site.

I'm not clear what the problem is. Do you have a study that shows that, for example, 12 years of training over 4 years of training produces a significant result in mortality rate?

Reducing barriers while still producing similar or good-enough output is the nature of all industries.

To take the doctor example, say you have the following available to you (price for a single visit):

    $0    - Google  
    $50   - Cheap Walk-In Clinic
    $250  - Regular Doctor Checkup/Visit
    $1000 - Semi-good specialist    
    $9000 - Specialist  
Which would you go to for a headache? Ear infection? Dull pain in an arm/shoulder for a long length of time? Strange heart symptoms? Tumor?

To go back to programming, take the same list

    $0    - CMS/Drupal/Wordpress/Bighost    
    $1000 - Outsourced      
    $9000 - Local Consultant  

Which would you use for a personal blog? Friend's bar website? Restaurant chain?

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