Let me tell you about my granddaughter. She’s 14 years old and wicked smart. For a while we did pair programming together online in Python. In the old days you took your grandkids fishing. Today we code. Go figure.
These days, we don’t program together as much. She’s too busy preparing for math competitions. As I said, she’s wicked smart. Needless to say, my granddaughter has quite the future in front of her.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit her in real time and space. We sat around drinking hot chocolate and cappuccino, talking about Big Picture stuff. That’s what grandparents are supposed to do with their grandkids, talk about matters beyond the day to day. At one point during the conversation I asked her the following question, “Are you friends with anybody who has trouble reading?”
Her reply was, no. All her friends read quite well and were interested in things that interested her. She wasn’t bragging or anything like that. It was just a matter of fact. All her friends are smart, engaged, have cell phones and know how to work a computer.
My question came from a book I had just finished reading, “Coming Apart,” by Charles Murray. One of the key points that Murray makes is that we’re dividing into two cultures and the distance between the two is growing wider. A key way to figure out how far from that “other” culture you are is to tally up the number of friends you have who have trouble reading. One camp will have a lot. The other will have practically none.
Back when I was my granddaughter’s age I had friends who had trouble reading. We met playing pickup basketball. The ability to read wasn’t important in that context. We based friendship on other factors. We played ball and rubbed off on each other. Some of the things that the poor readers were good at rubbed off on me. I like to think some of my better qualities rubbed off on them.
But that was then and this is now.
In the book, “Brave New World,” written in 1932, people are born in test tubes according to genetic recipes. Some grow to be highly intelligent, creative, analytic Alphas. Others grow up to be be Betas, people that can perform highly complex tasks such as mixing volatile chemicals, but without having an inkling of understanding as to why they are doing the task. Gammas were good at adding up numbers and thus, become bookkeepers. Deltas are the truck drivers and elevator operators. Epsilons are grown to be three feet tall and abhor the outdoors. They do the dregs of factory work, climbing in and under machines.
Now, hold that thought while I tell you about my daughter.
My daughter is a high school teacher. Most of her students are from what is termed, the wrong side of the tracks. They don’t read that well and are not terribly engaged in school. But, they do have cell phones and they know how to use them—mostly to text back and forth to home and with friends in classes in other parts of the building. To use the transportation analogy, for all intents and purposes they use of technology not so much to explore but to get from one place to another, something a driverless vehicle will do better than the human counterpart in the not-too-distant future.
So, what does this have to do with DevOps?
We in DevOps are the people who are going to drive most, if not all, the technology that will control the world. We are the Alphas. To get into our club you need to be very, very smart. Our work is complex and requires both commitment and ability to engage in continuous learning. When my granddaughter comes of age, she will mostly likely get into the club, maybe with honors. She lives in a world of increasing returns. Because she is smart, she hangs out with smart people. Because she hangs out with smart people, she will get smarter. To use an analogy: Those who know how to work GitHub have a universe of code at their disposal. Thus, they will make a lot more code for the world to use. Those who can’t do a pull request are stuck dead in their tracks. Access to opportunity provides more access to opportunity.
Using the model in “Brave New World,” those using GitHub creatively as part of the software development life cycle can be considered Alphas. Those who can’t are Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. The really bad news is that the work of Betas, Gammas, Delta and Epsilons is low-hanging fruit for replacement by automation and robotics. The work of Alphas is a lot more difficult to emulate with machine intelligence. Corporate employers will still need them. The Alphas will do just fine.
Hopefully, those who are displaced by automation will be assuaged by low-cost television and cell phone plans that offer unlimited data and texting. Otherwise, they’re going to be looking around for something else to do instead of working. Hopefully there will be “something else to do” while the other culture is prospering.
My granddaughter’s world reflects the trend that Murray and others describe. We’re dividing into two cultures and the distance between these cultures is growing. The sad part is that the experiences that used to provide a bridge between cultures are becoming less common. There are fewer common spaces in which we can rub off on each other benignly, with no other agenda than to get the ball through the hoop. If the trend continues, the cultures will grow so far apart that they will become unrecognizable to each other. Once recognition leaves the landscape, understanding and empathy are not far behind. You cannot have affinity for that which you cannot see.
Is it possible to reverse the trend? Is it possible to have an outcome other than the very probable one on the horizon? I don’t know. But, if we don’t try, the ramifications will be dire.