Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex by Walter Vannini (Aeon)

Coding is seen as fun and glamorous, but that’s a sales pitch. In reality, it’s complicated, both technically and ethically

It’s better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it’s up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean. More and more ‘decisions’ are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it’s rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what’s going on beneath these processes.

Clear well explained short and powerful article. via both Scripting News and Memex 1.1.

Perhaps we need another term for the coding like activity than can be a lot of fun for folk that have the skills that Walter Vannini explains coders need. I have a lot of fun dabbling in AppleScript, bash and JavaScript without the discipline and study necessary to be a coder.

Kids in school can have this sort of fun too, perhaps helping in maths and in skills like problem solving, working together and practical skills. Scratch and micro:bits can be a a lot of fun in a primary classroom.

4 thoughts on “Liked: Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex

  1. Thanks, John. “Insisting on the glamour and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don’t need discipline in order to progress”


  2. John, I enjoyed Vannini’s push back on coding. It reminded me in part how Seymour Papert put it, that coding is ‘hard fun’:

    How do we make writing become hard fun? One way is to develop for kids “writable” activities that they love to do. The building of robotic devices acquires “writability” because it lends itself to stage-by-stage description. Its writability is further enhanced by the use of word processors and digital cameras. But beyond technology there is the attitude in the learning culture. An example of what I mean was brought up by a teacher who objected to the idea that children should be allowed to write about what they liked. “When they go to work they’ll have to do what they are told.” Therein lies a source of many kids’ failure in reading. Of course we should teach children the skill of self-control needed to carry out orders. But mixing up learning that skill with learning to write defeats both purposes.
    http://www.papert.org/articles/HardFun.html

    https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/gh/Blogger-Peer-Review/quotebacks@1/quoteback.js

    • Aaron, This separation of skills taught from self control, is a lesson I’m learning again this session. Writing after a good stimulus, robots for example or free writing can lead to great results.

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