If the Singularity means we can fire all those programmers...

From: Jim Fehlinger (fehlinger@home.com)
Date: Tue Feb 13 2001 - 19:58:18 MST

...then it's a consummation devoutly to be wished (by most of the
business world).

The following e-mail exchange between me and a friend is reproduced
with the friend's permission. The book excerpt is reproduced without

> Joe Fineman wrote:
> >
> > >From an encyclopedia article I am editing:
> >
> > The 1954 Preliminary Report on Fortran stated that "...Fortran
> > should virtually eliminate coding and debugging...".
> >
> > Is this quotation well known? No reference was given.
> I've never seen a reference to this specific quotation, but I've
> seen many references to the indestructible hope held over the years
> by the managers who hate having to pay for programmers that some magic
> software tool will eliminate them once and for all. In the 50's, that
> magic software bullet was newly-invented high-level languages like Fortran
> and COBOL. In more recent years, it's been other tools, like report-generation
> languages, relational databases, object-oriented languages, and other
> so-called 4GLs.
> I have a book called _The Programmer's Survival Guide_ by
> Janet Ruhl (Prentice Hall, 1989) that's unusually frank about
> the attitude corporate management has toward data processing
> staff:
> -----------------------
> p. 41 "Why Management Doesn't Like Programmers"
> In every business I have ever worked in, no matter how much lip
> service was paid to the importance of technical people, the simple
> fact remains that... the skills that management rewards most
> highly are precisely those that management itself has -- and those
> are definitely not technical skills... The fundamental truth
> that anyone who ventures into a corporate environment needs to
> understand is that all rewards in the corporate world stem from
> the degree to which you are helping the company make a quick buck...
> "Computers are Overhead"
> This fact should be engraved over the doorways of all data
> processing offices in large gold letters. Except for a small
> number of companies that make their profits selling computer programs
> and programming services, the programming of computers is not
> directly contributing to the profitability of the corporation...
> Because computer programming is overhead, all good managers want
> to keep it as controlled as possible. The problem, unfortunately,
> is that computer systems are almost uncontrollable.
> Most of the major decisions that lead to the development of new
> computer systems in large companies are made by extremely nontechnical
> upper management types who don't want to go overboard on costly
> computer systems but are swayed by the press releases and the
> blandishments of very effective vendor salesmen... Often
> salesmen will go out of their way to assure the hesitant executive
> that he will not be dependent on programmers. Murmuring buzzwords
> like "fourth-generation language" and "artificial intelligence"
> the salesman bears tales of a wonderful future in which computers
> will program themselves, conversing with the (executive) user
> like well-trained children.
> -----------------------
> Of course, if those vendors ever get to the point of really
> delivering on those implied promises, we'll be in the midst
> of the Singularity.

Jim F.

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