Zach Faddis

I have trouble relating when people describe themselves as not a 'computer person', or otherwise treat computing as some sort of black box magic.

It seems obvious to me that computers and programming knowledge can extend human cognition and agency just as much as reading and math.

I'm sure both those domains were thought of as an academic field unnecessary to the commoner for a long time. I think thats were computing is today.

@zacharius Just consider the time investments that led to you being a computer person, and how much of your life relates to computers and other computer people.

A lot of people just other investment strategies. For example, learning computers would be useful for me if I accepted discarding 90% of my current life, and I don't feel young enough for that.

@zacharius *learning programing. I can at least use basic spreadsheets, making the most computer literate person in my social environment.

@zacharius At this point, learning anything more than the basics of computers is still a waste of time for a lot of people, just like learning more than the basics of literacy and numeracy used to be a waste of time before widespread bureaucracy.

@BruceJia @zacharius There are only so many coding jobs in the world.

Given that mainstream tech is mostly following the apple trend of being opaque to the consumer, we should expect computer literacy to decrease, not increase.

@machado I can recognize my own extreme bias on this matter.

That being said I think most people don't recognize the power a small amount of programming knowledge would give them because the tools they've been given doesn't allow them an easy way to tinker and customize outside menus.

I love spreadsheets because its about the only tool most people use that allow them the flexibility to create things the original developers couldnt think of.

Imagine if your word processor gave you the same kind of flexibility, this is basically what emacs is.

@zacharius I like spreadsheets because they act like organization erotica (I don't know enough excel to get to organization porn).

The only use costumization has ever had for me, outside gaming, is making my machines purposefully unusable to others, with foreign system language and unfamiliar layout and icons.

It's not even about safety, it's about making them not want to borrow my stuff instead of paying the social price of saying no when they ask.

@zacharius Learning emacs would have exactly 0 usefullness, given all word processor work I do needs to fit very predetermined formats that I can just copy/paste between .docx files.

AI will have taken over that work way before emacs becomes meaningfully useful to a large mainstream audience.

I'm not suggesting everyone use emacs, thats like a runner saying everyone should do a marathon. More the general philosophy of customization first instead of a poorly implemented afterthought.

I met a law student recently who is trying to build an extension in word that will search legal documents for citations and reformat them according to several different formats. This is something that apparently wastes huge amounts of time and which I was amazed to learn hadnt been solved already. It hadn't because the tools lawyers use didnt give them that kind of easily accessible flexibility to confidently customize their tools according to their needs.

I'm sure many professions have these kinds of problems that programers havent solved yet because they dont live with them but which could (relatively) easily be solved if non-programmers saw their tools as less opaque.

@zacharius About a year ago my plan was to learn programming while working with lawyers, with the end goal of developing software to store client and case data, and automate simple documents.

Then I realized:
1- most lawyers here are from the typewriter age, and refuse to learn.
2- lawyers avoid anything digital for confidentiality reasons.

(Citations aren't relevant in civil law systems)

@zacharius But that's just a coincidentally relevant anecdote about my life.

I recognize your general claim about available low hanging fruit in specialized software.

@zacharius a lot of consumer products being created nowadays are basically easier forms of programming. variations on excel, dropbox as rsync, sales tools as spam scripts, etc... many modern design tools are even folding in concepts like variables.

Typing text into an editor may actually be a very unnatural form of representing thought:

@aRandomCat typing text to program thoughts is definitely unnatural.

There are plenty of attempts at doing away with that but the Lindy Effect of text is too strong.

@zacharius I can imagine a quant saying he has trouble relating to people who don't think statistically, a group I somewhat identify with.

Rewiring the brain to think like computer takes non trivial effort, I tried for statistic.

@zacharius I actually have trouble when people describe themselves as any type of person. I worked in tech for over a decade but I never identified as a "computer person". I think it's because it encourages thinking of these things as innate when really I believe they're about actions taken over time. And to label me as a "computer person" would diminish the effort involved, as if I were born with some natural computer brain.

I agree with you; people can and should learn basic computer skills.

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