Midnight Pub

Being a programmer in a world with fewer computers


I am very curious about the future of programming, in a world with less computers.

How could there be less computers ?

Why would there be less computer in the future ? The actual trend is a sharp growth in the number of computers and the technology invading every part of our lives. However two reasons could lead to a world with less computers.

- There was a strong shortage of electronic equipment the previous months, and similar and more dramatic events could happen again. There could be a world with less computer because we could not produce them anymore.

- There could also be less computers because people decide to stop buying them. The technology has a very strong impact on the environment, even beyond the electricity consumption, all the mining of raw material needed to produce the computers is not sustainable. Therefore there could be, either individually or collectively, a choice to use less computers.

Personal dilemma

I am myself favorable to this choice. However, I am a programmer, both by profession and by passion. So when I hear a discussion about the ecological impact of technologies, and someone arguing that we should use less computer, I agree and feel threatened at the same time. What would I do in a world without computer ? Coding makes my happy, I don't want to stop doing it !

This dilemma leads me to think about what could a programmer do in a world with fewer computers.

Here are some ideas:

- Programming on old devices. See collapseos.org or what the hundred rabbits (100r.co) do.

This leads to interesting questions : what will be considered an the old devices in 30 years ? Smartphones ? Maybe we all need to learn Android programming !

- Programming without a computer. If we consider programming as a passion, that we do just for fun, could we invent games that can substitutes to the intellectual activity of programming ? I never a saw a game that was marketed as such. Maybe some puzzles ?

Do any of you have other ideas ?

Programming without a computer

This is called Mathematics, we've been doing it for 2000 years already, long before computers, and got pretty good at it :)


The Curry Howard correspondence is an equivalence between programming (specially functional programming) and proving theorems. This is not only a theoretical one, but proof assistants (a program to formally verify theorems) actually use it! LEAN started as a proof assistant (and was very slow) and now it is also a general purpose functional programming language. They even use it to program robots



Found this nice game : programming with color pens !




"No code" frameworks are really taking storm, and I estimate us |real| programmers have maybe a decade left before we need to retrain.

Everyone has great ideas what they want to do with their data, but not everyone can bridge that CS gap. Now they don't need to. Our time has come.



I think we won't have a future with fewer computers, but with more hidden ones.

I was reading about a future when we know less about the magical algorithms that surround us. They are becoming mystical forces, like gods for previous cultures. Why does the rain fall? Maybe it's a god of the rain.

For instance GPS and Navigation. Nobody cares about understanding how a satellite works, but we cannot reach anyplace without it. How does it work? Well, it's the god of Navigation.

As we require them to 'survive' a lot of mental and actual energy will be used to keep them alive.

That rant being said, some rebels will live with less technology. Rebeling to what everyone uses (like rebeling to the religion of a whole country). It's a painful truth to me.



So, enough ranting... Now, actual solutions.

First, we should fight against Planned obsolescence, preferring products with an extended life, and avoid that much waste.

Then, avoid using trendy systems, and going for stable ones. OS, languages, platforms. Or at least understanding it's advantages. Yes, I know having a powerful computer in your hand is convenient, and only a few USD to have one. What about learning how to use open technologies? And asking our friends to use them. I mean the soft and hard parts of technology.

Applied to programming (which I love), I would suggest to teach on electronic systems, along with computers, and teaching how to solve actual information problems.



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