A lot of people ask me if they should learn to program. They’ve seen that learning to program in 2012 allowed me to launch my new startup, Uncover, just a year later. Mainly I’ve heard from aspiring entrepreneurs who have had a difficult time finding a technical co-founder. They ask me if learning to program is their best bet for getting their idea off the ground. But plenty of regular folks from around the world are asking me: “Will I be left behind in five years if I don’t learn basic programming?”
The simple answer is: yes, learn to program.
I believe that everyone should at least learn basic programming skills. Programming is a language like any other, and as the world becomes more and more technical, I’d go as far as to say that in the years to come programming will replace Spanish, French and other languages as a second language in schools. It’ll be more useful, as technology becomes the world’s language.
In Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, Douglass Rushkoff argues that now more than ever it’s time to learn to program: “Understanding programming — either as a real programmer or even, as I’m suggesting, as more of a critical thinker — is the only way to truly know what’s going on in a digital environment, and to make willful choices about the roles we play.”
For those of you who aspire to understand technology — and if you’re reading this then that’s most of you — there’s no better way to do that then to build things. As a builder of software, you see first-hand what goes into making something work. Even those of you who do not aspire to make things for a living will come away with a more critical understanding of the way the world works.
Not only can I build whatever ideas pop into my head, but also, since learning to program, I look at the world in a different light. How so? Well, as a programmer you learn to think about problems both objectively and by taking into account all outcomes. There are only positive outcomes that can come from learning a new skill, and programming is the skill of our future.