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

From: Emlyn (
Date: Wed Feb 14 2001 - 03:01:25 MST

If the Singularity pops up in the standard, Singularity (tm) form, the
business world might have a lot of other things to think about at the

Programming is unlikely to dissapear; I think it'll probably increase.
Programmers do the meta level of automation - creating automated systems -
where that creation is not, in itself, automatable. As time progresses, more
of the meta level becomes automatable... which also always seems to mean we
can automate a bunch new things which before we could not. However, these
new capabilities of software, previously unachievable, but now achievable
due to increased automation of things we used to do by hand, tend to,
themselves, require hand coding. And so, the programmer goes on.

Think of it this way... at any time, we can do a bunch of things
automatically, and there are a bunch of things which we cannot do at all.
Between these two bunches (lets call them, um, sets), exists a bunch of
things which we can do only by hand (relying also on many layers and many
generations of prewritten software). Or to put it another way, we can always
do more with automated systems + coders, than we can do with automated
systems alone.

We are a necessary evil... we wont go back in the box!


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Fehlinger" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2001 12:28 PM
Subject: If the Singularity means we can fire all those programmers...

> ...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
> permission.
> > 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
> > and COBOL. In more recent years, it's been other tools, like
> > 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.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:39 MDT