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This is a wonderful essay!

I often think about how extraordinarily lucky I am to be living through this technological boom. Computation, automation and mass-communication will continue to transform human society even more for decades. High-end software development skills will become even more scarce. Immersing yourself in the boom by running a software shop with a bunch of good friends - the best of times!

Earlier tonight I was talking to someone about how odd it seems to me that software startups normally aim to operate at a loss. Perhaps I am a romantic, but I like the idea of a business making a good profit. Especially when dealing with something as lucrative as software, a business should be profitable from day one. I have always regarded David and Jason highly for having a similar attitude.

>High-end software development skills will become even more scarce.

It's not obvious to me. Can you explain your reasoning?

Sure thing, my reasoning goes like this:

My first premise is that we are still in a relatively early stage of the technological boom signified by things like electronics, computers, robotics and the internet. These technologies have changed life on Earth dramatically, but I think there is at least as much to come. In any case, for the next two or three decades, more and more aspects of life will be the object of automation, computation etc. So the demand for software development will continue to increase, and probably by a lot. Software will become an even greater part of the economy and continue to crowd out other types of business.

My second premise is that only a small percentage of the population have the talent and inclination to become very good programmers, and children with these traits often do not get proper encouragement and guidance. So from the beginning, it is very hard for society to produce a large number of programmers. More importantly, the ratio of people who can become good programmers is probably more or less a constant, while the need for software development will grow much faster.

I also see reasons to believe that we are getting worse at producing programmers. For example, software is become more mature, hiding more and more of the internals. I started programming at age seven, in the eighties. In local stores I could buy glossy magazines with articles about programming, often with entire programs that I could copy into Basic etc. For sure, there is the internet now, but what kind of programming culture for kids is there? I could pick my first computer apart and learn all about how it worked. The kids these days learn to use iPads long before they learn to speak, but they never get to see what's inside. Who knows where this will lead? We already know that a lot of graybeards are retiring and they are often impossible to replace since the current generation of programmers is not nearly as hard-core.

The Raspberry Pi could be the foundation of a new generation of programmers : But I don't see the size of the 'nerdy clique' being any bigger now than when I started out (soldering a 6502 machine).

If programming were painting, it's probably easier to become a housepainter now, but the percentage of Picassos is probably the same.

Great analogy with painting! I take what I wrote to apply to good programmers, the core people needed to get serious things done. Tolerably capable housepainter-programmers will be churned out in the millions, to be sure.

Things like the Raspberry Pi is great for reaching the nerdy clique, but I agree that the latter does not seem to be growing. On the other hand, I hear autism rates are way up in the valley - perhaps we can increase the size of the clique by selective breeding? =)

I'm not @meriksson - but I feel the same way.

They're going to become more scarce because computing is being used in more and more places. The demand for developers is increasing - not decreasing - and I don't see any change in that in the next decade minimum.

Yes there are more folk coming into the field. Yes there are more places where smart code is letting people do more with less. Despite that I think it's harder now to find good developers than it was ten years back because the spaces where you need developers us growing stupidly fast.

I agree with your assertion and also think that the increased demand for developers in more places is creating a lot of noise which makes it difficult to match up qualified developers with software that needs to be written. This in itself could be a business idea. Recruiters and job boards are a pretty inefficient way to solve the problem. There have been some startups previously featured on HN that are trying to fix that problem, but I think the field is still wide open.

I agree strongly that this is a wide open space. As an employer I would pay handsomely for recruiting services that I actually believed in. Of all the concepts floating around, I particularly like the idea of programmers having agents, like actors have. I have experimented a bit with this model myself and expect to see a lot of innovation in this area.

What did your experimentation entail? I am curious.


I don't want to put words in meriksson's mouth, but from my point of view our society is becoming more and more dependent on technology but is not becoming more aware of how it works. As the expectations of software and hardware capabilities continually increase, there will be an increased need for people that can meet those expectations. New tools and techniques can definitely help to the existing population of developers to accomplish more, but I think overall more developer talent will be necessary to write all the software that needs to be written. At the same time it seems that there are few students going through school now that are interested in the types of learning that software development requires (science, math, logic, etc.). This is just my opinion, based on things I have been told by friends and family who are teachers. I admittedly don't have metrics to back this up.

My reasoning along the same line is that there will be many more applications for high-end software development skills, vastly exceeding the rate at which new people gain high-end software development skills.

Glad to be a "just a programmer" right about now.

I'm not the OP but here's my take on it: as we evolve so do our tools, and as more and more people start creating their businesses online, the tools to support that will become easier and more efficient it'll get to do that.

Today you don't need a programmer to setup your online website with a store attached to it (and that could be 100% of your business), imagine what you will be able to achieve in a couple of years by yourself.

I think providing generalized software and plugins that non programmers can use for say blogging and ecommerce will always be somewhat limited. Once you get to a certain size the plugins will need customization to really work the way you want them to.

I do have a bit of a biased perspective though, instead of looking for a non programming solution I just jump into the code an make it work the way I want. It is amazing sometimes to see what tools people have cobbled together on a website to get away without programming knowledge.

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