By Ross Buchanan April 13, 2016

Inescapable Code

Editor’s Note: Code is truly everywhere. As our dependence on smartphones, wearable tech, and user-friendly digital kiosks and automotive touch screens and point-of-sale systems continues to grow, so does the need for people who can understand (and even build) what’s going on under the surface.

When our eyes are trained on the economic, political, and cultural ramifications of code, it’s easy to understand why software developers remain in such high global demand. President Obama recently pledged $4 billion for funding of computer science education in US public schools, and analysts continue to project dramatic growth in the software economy through 2016 (up to 45% by some estimates, even after record-breaking growth of 36% in 2015).

My personal continuum of engagement—with friends, family, and world events—is possible most principally through the ingenuity of code. And despite being a ‘non-technical’ professional, I’ve committed myself to a career path that is almost entirely dependent on software.

From the time my phone alarm rings each morning to the time I close my laptop each night, my relationship to code is inescapable.

I’m a complex series of unique data plots, in a great and nebulous cloudbase—Ubering from the airport to Airbnb and back again—breathing in grateful bewilderment at the conveniences provided to me by code.

Code enables data-rich classrooms, and boardrooms, and operating rooms; it provokes unique, modern debate over the parameters of its privacy. It’s necessary for satellite navigation, commercial air travel, and reimagining the most brutish appliances and industries of our age as ‘smart’ components of an ever-expanding Internet of Things.

And it can do all of this while improving my spelling, and broadening my ability to understand deep space.

Like the vast majority, I am dumbfounded by the software necessary to animate drones and self-driving vehicles, and to summon food from the internet. I save and spend and strategize with the help of programmers—and considering that high-security encryption is above my current understanding—I also say a prayer to the great coder in the sky, whispering desperate requests that the data from my daily usage of online banking, tax documentation, and point-of-sale software remain forever ‘private.’ Amen.

Then, I continue with my day; transferring invisible software money to gas stations, and charitable causes, and my favorite coffee shop for brooding on the internet. I leave a little something extra in the barista’s digital tip jar, so that I may sit for many consecutive hours without drawing attention.

Wearable code can effectively track my sleep, exercise, dietary choices, and a variety of other embarrassing traits throughout the day—it can also remind me to learn to code myself.

As software embeds itself more irreversibly into the human experience, a majority of users—like me—will find themselves ever-more dependent on the coders in our midst.

Perhaps it’s time that I learn, too.