Papas Fritas writes:
Barry Levine writes that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is urging environmentalists to have some compassion for the coal miners they help put out of work because they can't be easily retrained to do other jobs. "Mark Zuckerberg says you can teach them to code and everything will be great. I don't know how to break it to you but no" said Bloomberg. "You're not going to teach a coal miner to code." Bloomberg, who is an environmental activist, said while he gives "a lot of money to the Sierra Club" to shut down coal-fired power plants and to promote green energy projects, society needs to "have some compassion to do it gently."
Thousands of coal mining jobs have been shed throughout the country, there were about two thousand fewer coal miners in March 2014 than at the same time last year. Coal-reliant states, like Kentucky have been hit especially hard with more than 2,200 mining jobs lost in that state alone last year a 23 percent decline. Bloomberg suggested subsidies to help displaced workers, like coal miners, and maybe even retaining. But Bloomberg said retraining isn't always an option, especially in an economy becoming increasingly tech savvy. Bloomberg stressed the need for the retraining to be "realistic."
I'm not sure how true that is. I, for example, have many product ideas that I have no time to work on. A coder, a developer, an engineer have huge advantage over a ditch digger: they can invent once and then sell the invention forever. But a ditch digger has to dig a new ditch each time when he wants to sell it. I admit that my ideas are not on the scale of PS3 or iPhone; but they are very viable for a small company.
The trouble, unfortunately, is in the fact that you have to have some reasonable education and experience before you can hang out your own shingle and start making products. It requires some business skills, some investment, some acceptance of risk, and - very important - readiness to go without a salary for a year or two, as you are only spending while making the product.
The education idea is nice; but why do you think a truck driver works as a truck driver, and not as a CEO of Fortune 500? Is it because he just loves to be away from his family for weeks? Or is it because he prefers to risk his life every single day working long hours, controlling a multi-ton mechanism on a freeway? Maybe he is politically opposed to wealth? No, of course not. The higher you look, the fewer chairs are available, and the requirements get tougher, and competition becomes ruthless, and the deal becomes more and more rigged. Jobs at the lower levels of the pyramid may be not as exciting, but they are available (or used to be,) and they were steady, and they paid a good living, and you didn't have to borrow an astronomical sum of money to study for MBA, and you didn't even need to have ability to learn all that.
Perhaps a 20 y/o man can equally easily pick the job of a driver and a job of a businessman. His mind is malleable, and he is able to learn new things. But ask the same question about a 40- or 50-y/o man, and the answer changes. It is harder to learn new stuff even if you knew how to do it. It's much harder to do if you never studied anything like that in your life. A truck driver can become a programmer, but his chances are best if he had affinity for programming from the day zero of his life. Similarly, I will not be able to drive NASCAR or Indy cars - I do not have the need for speed, and I dislike competition. I have no talent for any sport where someone wins and someone loses. If someone comes to me and says that I must retrain to compete in a bicycle race, I will advise that person to go bother someone else. I also cannot become a doctor, or a poet, or a ballet dancer... the list is very long. Why then should we expect that some other random person, who was previously employed in $x, is even physically and mentally capable of being employed in $y? And even if he is capable and completes the retraining, what are his chances in this job market, when the competition is young and fresh from school? Or when the competition is highly experienced after decades of work in the area? Would you, as a project manager, hire a 50 y/o programmer who admits that he never programmed anything more complex than "Hello, World" in Java? Would you put him to work on a 100K LOC project of medium complexity? If you do, what oversight will he need?
The whole "teaching coding as a cure for all economic and societal ills" schtick has been oversold.
At some point, there's going to be a limit to the amount of value we can get from "software for software's sake" type of thinking. The fact that the biggest and most powerful tech company in the world (Google) makes its billions on what--advertising, marketing, and data-mining?
Really? This is the coder's utopia we've all dreamed of?
Very well, then. Teach everyone to code so we can write social media applications for each other. Let me know how it works out.
I'm sure that there are many blue collar workers in the coal mining industry that are more capable in almost every respect than you or Bloomberg. They could code better, fuck your wife better, and beat you at chess.
> But a ditch digger has to dig a new ditch each time when he wants to sell it.