Twenty-First Century Illiteracy

Given the extent to which all aspects of modern society (at least in industrialized countries) have come to be dominated by computers, it is not surprising that those with a detailed knowledge of how such machines now have a massive structural economic advantage over those who do not. Indeed, it is clear that a detailed knowledge of programming today confers an advantage similar to that of knowing how to read or perform mathematics in centuries past.

Acknowledging this fact, I’m forced to make a sad admission: I am illiterate in the ways of the twenty-first century. Or semi-literate rather; I’m not one of those people who treat their computers like magic boxes which allow them to play games and talk to people in other countries. I know the elements of programming, a lot of the syntax, and I can, with some difficulty, figure out what other people are doing, or even write some simple codes of my own–or even complicated ones, in an unnecessarily cumbersome fashion. But it is not good enough, and it is time that I faced this fact.

My job search has been impeded by my difficulty in this area; physicists have a lot of transferable skills, but in this day and age, few of them are worth much without the additional knowledge of programming. I have been trying for months to dance around it, but the fact remains: I’m going to have to seriously apply myself and learn how to code.

As they say, there is no shame in ignorance: only in choosing to remain ignorant.


About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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4 Responses to Twenty-First Century Illiteracy

  1. Do you know about the Khan Academy? They have some really great (free) how to code lessons. I haven’t done them (I’ve done others though), but they’ve been promoting their coding videos for a while now, and I’ve heard great things. 🙂

  2. n8chz says:

    You mentioned earlier in the present blog that you took a course in Java. One thing you might want to look at as a follow up to Java is Android app development, for which Java is the lingua franca. There are emulators available for Windows/Linux/Mac, so you can test some types of apps even if you don’t have an Android device.

    Enough on computer literacy for now, I have a question concerning physics literacy. I’d be curious to hear your take on the following statement:

    Today’s physicists don’t have a clue. They have deviated from reality in ways more extreme than the alchemists of old. They hide behind mathematical equations so complex that even they don’t understand them. The fundamental problem is quite simple. They refuse to admit that consciousness is built into the fabric of the universe.

    This is from the preface to AFFEERCE – A Business Plan to Save the United States and then the World, by Jeff Graubart (pdf)

    • While I have a “hunch” that consciousness is actually an intrinsic and necessary element of the Universe, I have no way of proving it; neither do I know how assuming that this would be the case would do anything to simplify theoretical physics.

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