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Why Learning To Code Won’t Save Your Job

Source | FastCompany : By Douglas Rushkoff

Looking for job security in the knowledge economy? Just learn to code. At least, that’s what we’ve been telling young professionals and mid-career workers alike who want to hack it in the modern workforce—in fact, it’s advice I’ve given myself. And judging by the proliferation of coding schools and bootcamps we’ve seen over the past few years, not a few have eagerly heeded that instruction, thinking they’re shoring up their livelihoods in the process.

Unfortunately, many have already learned the hard way that even the best coding chops have their limits. More and more, “learn to code” is looking like bad advice.

Coding Can’t Save You

Anyone competent in languages such as Python, Java, or even web coding like HTML and CSS, is currently in high demand by businesses that are still just gearing up for the digital marketplace. However, as coding becomes more commonplace, particularly in developing nations like India, we find a lot of that work is being assigned piecemeal by computerized services such as Upwork to low-paid workers in digital sweatshops.

This trend is bound to increase. The better opportunity may be to use your coding skills to develop an app or platform yourself, but this means competing against thousands of others doing the same thing—and in an online marketplace ruled by just about the same power dynamics as the digital music business.

Besides, learning code is hard, particularly for adults who don’t remember their algebra and haven’t been raised thinking algorithmically. Learning code well enough to be a competent programmer is even harder.

Although I certainly believe that any member of our highly digital society should be familiar with how these platforms work, universal code literacy won’t solve our employment crisis any more than the universal ability to read and write would result in a full-employment economy of book publishing.

It’s actually worse. A single computer program written by perhaps a dozen developers can wipe out hundreds of jobs. As the author and entrepreneur Andrew Keen has pointed out, digital companies employ 10 times fewer people per dollar earned than traditional companies. Every time a company decides to relegate its computing to the cloud, it’s free to release a few more IT employees.

Most of the technologies we’re currently developing replace or obsolesce far more employment opportunities than they create. Those that don’t—technologies that require ongoing human maintenance or participation in order to work—are not supported by venture capital for precisely this reason. They are considered unscalable because they demand more paid human employees as the business grows.

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