Everything is Becoming Software (And That’s a Good Thing)

software-generic-0214I recently had an interesting conversation with someone in the product design space at a university that I wanted to share — and get your thoughts about. He asked, “You used to be a professor — should my students take computer science even if they don’t want to be programmers?” My answer probably won’t surprise you…

Software will have a revolutionary impact on just about every industry sometime in the near future — so yes, regardless of the career you want to take — if you want to be a leader in your field — you must be at least familiar with computer science and software design.

We have already seen the impact that software has had on finance (micro-trading and artificial intelligence), manufacturing and supply chain management (cybernetics/robotics and automated process control) and the more obvious impact on workforce mobility, communications and education. Even the way you schedule and use a taxi is being revolutionized by software. The same will happen to other industries. Such as how your food is delivered, how advertisers ensure you learn about their products, how cars operate, how cities and buildings interact with you AND each other. And my favorite, how you collaborate with others.

Once software is truly integrated into an industry two things happen:

  1. Specialized hardware and processes are replaced with commodity components and interchangeable parts.
  2. The traditional constraints imposed by the use models we have become accustomed to fade away.

For example, I no longer have to pre-schedule a ride to the airport and know the address of my starting point. Instead, I can open an app on my phone and request a cab on demand. I listen to my music on a plane from a device that is smaller than a credit card and has my entire library of music. The device itself matters far less than it once did and I no longer have constraints centered around hardware platforms (what CDs should I bring with me on the flight, etc.).

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So yes, to answer the question, computer science should be a fundamental part of anyone’s education. In the past, we all had to learn basic principles of science regardless of where you wanted to take your education — dissecting frogs and studying the periodic table. Going forward, all students should be exposed to how database queries work, the protocol stack that drives the Internet and how programming languages are turned into machine code. This will make our next generation of workers better equipped to deal with how their particular disciplines will be transformed by software.

Specifically in the AV space — folks who embrace software will win. So next time you have a chance to take a TCP/IP course at a trade show, or see how to write a software script to control AV hardware, I wouldn’t pass it up.

So now I ask you, should students take computer science even if they don’t want to be programmers?