In the other related question, I am exploring how might a world like ours develop to a world where programming skills are considered to be basic literacy.

Currently, possibly less than 1% of world population have programming skills. In this case almost everyone would know at least one language fully(or very well)

What are basic programming skills in this context?

  • Be able to instruct computer/robot/bot/drone in a programming language of your choice.
  • Be able to read and understand codes created by other entities.

Would it be an enjoyable world, or lead to some ugly dystopian society forms? What would be different about computers and the internet?

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    $\begingroup$ what is "programming skill"? Because I think that programing language is a language how and if you use and know it is nothing else than just using yor regular language for programming For example it take less literacy in english to use Pascal than to speak proper English. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @SZCZERZOKŁY I've extended the question body, thank you. $\endgroup$
    – J. Doe
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ If you can use formulas in Excel you can code. I think that is more than 1% of the world population right now. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ If a question is closed, please address the closing reason instead of rushing to accept whatever answer has been given. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica on the other hand why is the question closed without a single comment about the reason? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


Programming is not one discipline. Each language and each hardware had its particularity.

You are talking about programming as a basic literacy, so it means that each people can code without any paper or computer supporting him, as I can speak without a dictionnary under my hand. But there are different types of code, and each of them has its own particularities. That is why we call this type of code "languages": Python, Java, C...

So that is the first milestone for your question: I have basic literacy in English, I have no literacy at all in Russian. So maybe is this future world, part of the population has programming skills in Java, another one in Python. It does not mean that they are tied to this language for their lives, they can learn other languages as I can learn Russian, but it will need time.

Second milestone, you're spealing of programming a drone, a computer... and that's ok. But for making a drone fly, you need two more things than general programming skills:

  • Hardware knowledge: Let's say you will use a microchip Arduinno to control the drone. Then you need to know the specific Arduinno functions: it is based on a language (C, I think) but it has functions not the same as C's functions. This is what I call hardware knowledge, and it often goes through library
  • What to code? You can code your Arduinno functions, nice! But you need to know what to achieve with them in order to make your drone fly. It is not about aerodynamics, you can buy your engine On the Shelf, but it is about control of the engine: which speed in rpm to command?

The same applies with other specific applications of code, such as machine learning: you need to know Python, but also -for example- Google's library TensorFlow, and you need to have some knowledge as well about statistics and convergence (which consists in... mathematics!)


1/ In your world, you can have some people with different fields where their programming skills: one for drone, one for internet, one for machine learning... 2/ In your world, everyone will know "basic language": java, html, and will be able to create small phone games or website. But not everyone will know the correct library to make a drone fly. But it will be quite fast, with an internet connection, to read the correct library's documentation. As easy as someone here can use "Google translation" to write a correct text in Russian, without speaking Russian

EDIT: From the OP question in comment: "how could such a world come to a reality?" "How would it develop in decades n+1 and n+2?"

I think such a world can became a reality easily in most developed countries from Europe, American and Asia. It just need a lot of people, in the education system, to acknowledge programming is important. It should also wait for people able to teach programming to come to age (they are still not that numerous today). So I think that in two decades, in the USA, a wide spread teaching of programming skills could become a reality, and in two decades more most grown up people would have those skills (at least in the workforce).

Now, about how it will evolve: well, there is a big problem for sustainability of current economy in such a world:

  • Why do you pay a farmer form? He uses his workforce to supply food.
  • Why do you pay a "blue collar" for? He uses his workforce to supply consuming goods or big things (airplane, car...).
  • Why do you (most of the time) pay a programmer for? He uses his workforce to create a tool that aims to... improve the use of other people's workforce!

Now, imagine that the farmer and the blue collar can programm the tool that will improve the reliability or the output of their labor: then, they won't pay a guy for that. Or they will pay him low, as for the guy who cleans the room in which they work: they could do it themselves, if they had time for. So I think that plenty of applications for IT guys will not disappear, but just be done by end-users (farmer, blue collar, you, me...) by themselves.

Of course, there are other applications: entertainment: it is probable that the farmer, going home, will want to play video game and not code video game.

And considering the complexity of some tasks, companies will still need, probably, a dedicated man for programming. Especially for programming on a specific hardware (e.g.: drone...)

There will be room for dedicated programming there, but overall... economy will change a lot!

  • $\begingroup$ thank you - as you describe this stage of development, may I ask which decade could it be from now? And what would happen in decades n+1 and n+2 if you would extrapolate? $\endgroup$
    – J. Doe
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ Well I think your second question could call for evn a longer answer^^ But I will edit with some ideas I have. Btw, could you please vote my answer according to your assessment on it? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Or they will pay him low There's a huge difference between programming and software engineering. Almost as much difference between English literacy and English literature, or between weekender gardening and farming, or between driving and competing in the Dakar rally. If the drone you want to program is powerful enough to harm or kill people (you included) and you want to control the drone beyond what the manufacturer allows you, I betcha you'll pay a professional and pay it well to program that drone. Think like this: would you dare ride a self-driving car you programmed on your knees? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi I think I address the issue of complex software, with libraries, and even more with hardware issue in my answer. But there a lot, today, of websites and applets that people pay for but that they could do by themselves with programming skills $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 14:27

For figuring out what the world is like, we can break down the statements and final results from the question into a path of logical progression

Language Standardization

... [A] world where programming skills are considered to be basic literacy.

This already has the implication that programming is important enough in your world to teach it to children from a very young age as basic learning. From this statement alone, I would thing that the world is rife with machines that are designed so that anybody can program them at least in a limited capacity.

Now, there are multiple programming languages out there. In my particular job, I work with four of them on a regular basis as part of it. Three relate to different aspects of web design, and they would not be good working in the other's wheelhouse.

The unwritten implication is that there has been some widespread standardization and possible simplification of programming languages out there. Basic literacy will be in a high-level programming language, such as Java or C#, or more likely a programming language yet to be invented. Countries (or groups of countries) will adopt their own languages for programming just as they have for speech, so I would expect to see a dual linguistic flow and evolution.

Programming concepts will be intermediate learning, like the way that we are taught the underlying structures of language. Middle school kids coming home and talking about their polymorphism homework or whatever programming concept they are learning about will be the norm, just like math and language (English and French for me)

The World Around

Be able to instruct computer/robot/bot/drone in a programming language of your choice.

For programming to be a basic life skill, there needs to be enough things for a casual person to program. I would expect to see items such as:

  • Small appliances that can be programmed to do a variety of things. It might not be a wide variety, but there will be one. Such as a basic coffee maker being able to be programmed to turn on at X time and stay on for Y hours, triggered when Event Z happens (likely an alarm clock). A more expensive one might be tied to the water lines with an internal coffee grind reservoir and actually make Q cups of coffee for you outright.
  • A central computer in the home that works as a master console to link and program appliances and other things in the home together. It would be the most convenient thing that we already have developed to program on, and it would make the most sense to connect everything together through a central point in order to program.
  • Fobs or other external devices to aid in encryption. If programming is a basic life skill, then the encryption and security for your systems will be a regular thing and likely big business. This will basically be like another set of house keys only a bit more important.
  • A personal digital assistant would not be remiss. I can see a basic one being sold by a company and it is up to the individual's programming skills to customize it with the looks and capabilities they want.

Automation will also be a large part of life in this world. When you can program your coffee-maker to start when your alarm clock goes off, and your TV to start when you open your door after work, then you will have extra bits of free time at home. Such automation can also extend to the workplace, making maintenance of employees easier.

The world I envision is basically the Internet of Things, ramped up to 12. Mega Man Battle Network is a decent example of the concept, though it is minimally shown. The Jetsons could be an aesthetic option too only with the ordinary person programming the machines.

Local Economy

Physical cash may or may not be a thing. Certainly every home will have a home bank account, either the homeowner's or a distinct home account to handle automated maintenance. Cash will be a thing if enough people deem it a thing to keep.

Delivery Services will be big with refrigerators and cupboards capable of automatically ordering food for you and other appliances/gadgets able to pre-order replacement supplies if desired -- Some printers can already do this. Whether this will be individual companies offering the service or a separate delivery/courier/logistics company that has evolved into this role is yet to be seen.

Given that prices could be looked up for things on a lark, borrowing things from your neighbours might be as simple as a query to see if they have anything that their systems deem as extra and make a query to them on demand. This could possibly lead to micro-economies in neighbourhoods where the residents effectively barter things with each other. This may involve more or less visiting the neighbours depending on their house setups.

Industries would have to evolve in such a scenario. Cyber-security would be one of the largest industries because with the right codes, a criminal can not only break into your house, but steal all your possessions and your money. Depending on the criminal, they might be able to cast you as the thief living in their house once they manage to steal ownership of the house.

Hardware and software for certain things will be a bit more standardized in this situation. Perhaps this scenario happens once we have reached our limits on how fast we can make a computer go. Without the ability to go up, we work on going to the sides. On that front, hardware add-ons for items might become a big industry as people customize their gadgetry like they do their wardrobe.

All this automation will absolutely murder certain industries, and give birth to others. While everyone might be able to program, some will be better. I would expect to see master programming linguists out there that ply their trade practically. They would be able to practically program the scene from Be Our Guest as an ordinary day.

As a final note, expect the odd person that does not like, does not trust, or cannot afford the same level of home automation as the norm. Some people really do enjoy washing dishes, mowing lawns, and simple house work. How many people this entails will have an impact on certain things, like grocery stores.

World Condition

Honestly, how the world is on the Utopia -> Dystopia axis is up to you. The themes of the stories told in your world coupled with what directions you wish to take it really will determine this part.

I can see a world where most of the menial chore-like work is done already, leaving more leisure time at home. Likewise, menial work in the workplace is similarly handled, leaving the workers free to concentrate on what they were hired for as opposed to spending half the day tracking down things. As such, an 8 hour day might actually be 6 with the inefficiencies removed, leaving more free time to pursue creative interests.

Conversely, with rampant automation taking jobs and home automation removing the joy of housework meaning more time for work, it would be easy to see this world as basically the feudal future as the lower class toil and barely survive while ultra-rich companies basically exploit them for profits but now have to protect them so they can continue working since they will basically be the government.

Likewise, perhaps everyone knows programming because somebody opened the AI box and now we need to know how to program for Reasons.

How enjoyable this world would be is really dependent on where you fit into it and your own personal likes. Just remember that some people are never happy and will automate a robot to shake a stick and yell at kids to get off their lawn. Or out of their swamp.


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