How Software is Eating the World

Look around your room.  How many devices do you see that run on software?  Our computers obviously, but we often forget that software runs our televisions and cable boxes.  Many people now own smart appliances or have Ring doorbells.  All recent cars have a software package that controls vital aspects of the car.  With the spread of software, we are more and more reliant on an invisible profession to manage our days: software engineers.  As Marc Andreessen wrote in his 2011 Wall Street Journal article, software is eating the world.

raoVenkatesh Rao has deeply explored how software design process altered our way of living.  In fact, he champions that idea that we need to think more like software engineers who embrace failure and use it to constantly improve their work.  In his online series, Breaking Smart, he argues that software has become a transformational technology on par with the development of language and money.  Yet being in the middle of this transformation, we still struggle to understand its full effects. Venkatesh writes:

“As a simple example, a 14-year-old teenager today (too young to show up in labor statistics) can learn programming, contribute significantly to open-source projects, and become a talented professional-grade programmer before age 18. This is breaking smart: an economic actor using early mastery of emerging technological leverage — in this case a young individual using software leverage — to wield disproportionate influence on the emerging future.”

This is clearly demonstrated in the impact of people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.  Venkatesh’s ideas are complex, but the Breaking Smart blog is worth tackling if you want to get a better sense of the often-unseen impact that software has on the world.

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