We write stories. These stories aren’t written in languages you may understand. They do not have a plot or characters, they are not written in english or any other spoken language, and they are useless to place on a page. They don’t come in the form of books, but are instead intangible to a human. They are the directors of electrons, the choreographers of our favourite websites and applications, and for some, the liberators of our creative capacity.
These stories are not written for people, but for machines. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, critical healthcare systems and just about anything we use today is an avid reader of our stories. We are programmers and we write our stories in software. Python, C, Java, Ruby – all manifestations of 0’s and 1’s. These two seemingly small digits drive our world into new frontiers and give us the means to take on new challenges that we previously could never have dreamed of solving.
Facebook, Google, Amazon, NASA, SpaceX and so many more companies are leveraging stories written in code to do amazing things that we take for granted. From putting any piece of information just seconds away, to exploring far flung worlds many millions of kilometres from Earth. New telescopes utilize software to gaze at the cosmos, unlocking new potential to answer some of life’s most profound questions, such as ‘are we alone’? Research labs are unlocking the secrets of DNA through new developments in machine learning – software that learns on its own. Just about anything you can think of, you can begin to solve in a software language.
This is the beauty I see in software. Like an author who uses words tell a story, we tell our story through applications that touch the lives of so many people worldwide. Sometimes they are for the better, and sometimes not. Some people write social networks, others, cruise missile guidance systems. Some are driven by the chance to eradicate disease, others simply never want to have to drive to work ever again. Whatever the motivation or dream, programmers are liberated by computation to bring forth new and astounding ways to touch the world.
This is why we become software engineers. The stories we write are used by everyone, and even have the power to shape the very world itself. What would our society look like today if not for software? Personally, I believe at present, the positives far outweigh the negatives – however this could change. Who knows what the future will look like, and so, we must remember to act ethically and in the best interest of society. We need to remember that the stories we write are not only read, but also have real world consequences. So continue to write these stories and continue to improve society where you see fit.
Stop dreaming, and keep coding.