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aitor/gist:1710365

Created Jan 31, 2012
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What would you like to do?
Our role in a software-based civilization (temptative title)

What is to be a developer?

Coder, informatician, software artisan, digital craftsman, hacker… maybe we can't agree about the denomination of our work as we like to invent countless number of ways to call it but we don't -used to- have problems explaining what is its nature.

For that last 40 years we and the developers before us, have being struggling to discover how to make better, more flexible, more resilient software. But in all this time it was pretty clear that the product we were creating was made by lines of code, that the context for using it was that screen in front of us, the personal computer, and that the users of our work were very much other human beings. Even the biggest tipping point in the software industry -the creation of the Internet- to a large extent didn't change this.

Now look around you. Software is the mythological hydra turned digital, turned invisible, turned ubiquitous, turned anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere. The way software is constantly permeating through our society, our culture, our civilization is much deeper that what we often think. Is not only that hundreds of millions of persons have a computer on their pockets today; mobile computing is just the iceberg tip on this tectonic shift.

Your TV, your washing & coffee machine, your credit cards... all are becoming more software than atoms. Our stock markets -the ones that made the headlines of the newspapers everyday- are basically run by machines talking to machines, deciding by themselves when to buy, when to sell.

You can see every corner of the most important cities in the world while walking in a street on the other side of the world. Our textbooks -what we use to tell students how is the world- have started the long migration from the printed, static text plateau through the real time, interactive mountains to reach the XXI century education's pastures -or deserts-.

Regular people is constructing DIY drones able to fly to a location, face-recognize a person and track her wherever she goes. We've cheap 3D printing machines that can phisically replicate any digital object we can create… or even themselves.

And all this, and an unlimited myriad of other things to come, is basically software. Software we must create.

Software is now a plastic goo stretching in all directions with accelerating speed. More contexts, more expressions, more hybridization. Less distance between digital and physical, less structure, less final versions...

What is our role in this new paradigm? Is our job still about writing code? With the gap between us and users getting thinner everyday, how isolated can our work be from other disclipines as design, anthropology, architecture, politics? What are the ethical implications of a software-based civilization for us as creators?

In short… What is to be a developer? I'd like to talk with you about it.

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