The only second language you should worry about your kids learning is programming

Found a great quote from the futurist Ray Kurzweil, who recently became Head of Engineering at Google.

“The only second language you should worry about your kids learning is programming.”

I can’t agree with this strongly enough. Programming isn’t a skill that is best off being the sole preserve of a profession, like Law or Electrical Engineering for example. It’s obviously useful to understand the basics of those subject areas but knowledge of them is unlikely to help you do your job better (unless you’re a lawyer or electrician)

Programming is different. It’s a way to articulate your thinking via the manipulation of a computer and the computer is, beside our brain, the most powerful tool we have at our disposal. Thus far, the computer is the most effective tool we have to articulate our thoughts. It’s literally a dream machine. In a world increasingly made up of, and thus informed by, digital information this is how you articulate yourself. You have to be able to use a computer effectively and this is why:

As time passes your ability to instruct a computer to carry out your tasks, solidify your thoughts, will directly affect you and your families standard of living.

Here’s an example of that. I worked with a great marketing guy in team that developed a web product. Each month he needed to carry out some analytics of the product’s engagement. Unfortunately, he couldn’t write any code or scripts and this meant he couldn’t do his job now without having to rely on a ‘techy’ to run some reports. All he really needed was some basic SQL but he resisted it and working with software, as we all do increasingly, this gradually left him feeling a bit useless and he eventually quit his job. A loss to both the company, as he was a naturally gifted marketeer, and to him in terms of income and ultimately how he viewed his abilities. In literacy terms, he was unable to articulate himself and a feeling of frustration set in. As most business now rely on databases and most databases are relational, I suspect we will could SQL being a pre-requisite for more and more office jobs, especially those whose role is to produce reports.

Humans are tool makers and users. That is what shaped our development. Computers are the most important and significant tool that we’ve created. Like all good tools computers allow us to do things quicker and more easily but they then go far beyond this. So far beyond this, they have literally taken us to the stars.

With computers we can model the Universe, we can manipulate matter, simply put: if you can think it, with a computer you can create it. They allow us to make concrete the invisible and intangible stuff of dreams.