Every student should be studying Computer Science in their formative years at school. The ability to future-proof decisions, to be able to exercise agile governance and make mindful decisions requires the knowledge and understanding of the technological world that we live in today. Future leaders and society’s individuals are stewards for the development of healthy ecosystems. If we want to live in safe, just, equal and respectful environments, we are each responsible for building healthy ecosystems around us and such responsibility requires well-rounded leadership.
For this reason, many governments around the world have decided to make the study of Computer Science compulsory. Whilst some schools and individuals are still deciding whether their investment in the discipline is worthy of their attention or not, the digital divide continues to grow. Technology and its decision-makers are catapulted forward as the predicted Moore’s Law unfolds. In real terms, this means that processor speeds have been doubling in power every two years since the 1970s yet education to channel the use of technology has not been able to keep pace with this growth.
It, therefore, wasn’t surprising to see Mark Zuckerberg identifying a major concern for the evolution of and preoccupation of social media in people’s lives, “By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms.”
This leads to the main premise of this article and is a point many educators have been making for well over twenty years. Society has allowed itself to hand-over the decision-making for the creation of a safe, just, equal and respectful society to a few excellent programmers who are making the rules as they program. There has been little future-proofed thinking, or discussions that address and attempt to balance our ethical and moral responsibilities to one another. And this is where the learning of programming and ethics becomes essential in today’s world. Without the knowledge, understanding and skills of an ethical programmer, how are we to effect positive change if we cannot pre-empt and fathom the power of it in the hands of a few? If we don’t learn to program, we all risk becoming programmed, and for some, without even realising it.
Programming is therefore an essential skill; it is today’s literacy. The question we all need to be asking ourselves, is not whether we want this tool or not, but how we are learning about these tools to shape the kind of society we want to live in.