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The limitations on learning to code as a labour market strategy

In the last few months I’ve become very interested in the status accorded to coding as a labour market strategy. It’s held up as both individually rational and a viable strategy for governments seeking to grow the human capital of their citizens. However, as Douglas Rushkoff observes in his Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, we’re likely to see growing numbers of coding jobs outsourced to lower cost countries through computational clearing houses. Furthermore, from Loc 866:

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.

Whatever demand for skills currently exists is likely to diminish with time, while available opportunities risk being swamped by aspirants given a wider context of occupational insecurity in which areas seen as focal points for growth are seized upon in an ever quicker fashion.

There’s an amusing account of 3 scenarios of learning to code here:

Scenario 1

Person 1: “I tried to learn to code once. I had a hard time. Life got in the way, and I am no longer trying to learn to code.”

Marketer: “Coding is easy!”

Person 1: “What? Oh. Maybe coding is easy after all. Maybe I’m just dumb.”

Scenario 2

Person 2: “I want to learn to code, but it sounds hard.”

Marketer: “Coding is easy!”

Person 2: “Really?”

Marketer: “Yes. Buy my course/program/e-book and you’ll be an elite coder in less than a month.”

Person 2

Shut up and take my money!

Person 2, one month later: “I thought coding was supposed to be easy. Maybe I’m just dumb.”

Scenario 3

Person 3: I have no interest in ever learning to code. I’m a successful manager. If I ever need something coded, I’ll just pay someone to code it for me.

Marketer: Coding is easy!

Person 3: Oh, OK. Figures. In that case, I guess I won’t pay those code monkeys very much, or hold their work in very high regard.

Categories: Digital Inequalities Finance and Economy Structural Redundancy and Abjection The Political Economy of Digital Capitalism The Technological History of Digital Capitalism

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