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Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code 581

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-teach-an-old-dog-how-to-use-a-for-loop dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Gigaom reports that while speaking at the Bloomberg Energy Summit on Wednesday, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he gives 'a lot of money to the Sierra Club' to help close dirty coal plants, but added that as a society we have to 'have some compassion to do it gently.' Subsidies to help displaced workers are one option, said Bloomberg, while retraining is another option. But, in a slight to the tech industry's sometimes out-of-touch nature with workers outside of Silicon Valley, he said retraining needs to be realistic, 'You're not going to teach a coal miner to code,' argued Bloomberg. 'Mark Zuckerberg says you teach them to code and everything will be great. I don't know how to break it to you... but no.'"
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Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

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  • Pretty much true (Score:1, Informative)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:45AM (#46725841) Homepage
    Not only is it hard for people to learn new skills later in life, but coding is something that requires a certain aptitude. Sure, some coal miners might be able to learn how to code, but I would think very few of them could. If they could, they wouldn't be working in a coal mine. There's plenty of people who chose programming as a career and yet still can't program their way out of a paper bag (fizz buzz [codinghorror.com]), I don't think the chances of most people from non-technical fields are good at all.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:50AM (#46725939)

    The headline misquotes Bloomberg. He didn't say you *can't* teach a coal miner to code, he said you won't. And he's right. While it's certainly *possible* for some older adults to radically change their career paths into tech jobs, the majority of us lack the motivation and mental flexibility, and society doesn't want to spend the money to help us make the switch. It's just not going to happen. Bloomberg's overall point is dead on: we need to come up with ways to allow people to gently move into new careers that make the most of their talents, rather than just firing them, throwing a Javascript for Dummies book at them, and expecting them to become the next Zuckerberg.

    That said, Bloomberg's got a pretty 19th century view of what coal mining is. Since it's all done with heavy machinery and robots these days, it's a pretty technically demanding job.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:52AM (#46725969) Homepage Journal

    So it's more accurate to say that some coal miners may be able to learn to code: Watch out for those blanket generalizations, they bite back.

    If you actually RTFA, you'll see that Bloomburg didn't actually make the blanket generalization he's accused of, he was referring to exactly what you said here: Not all coal miners are fit to be programmers, so to say "just teach them to code and they'll all become programmers" smacks of elitism and a lack of understanding about how the non-tech world works.

    To that end, Zuckerburg's quote sounds like it could have come straight from the mouth of Marie Antoinette.

  • Re:What???? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SydShamino (547793) on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:06PM (#46726185)

    Bloomberg didn't say that you can't teach any coal worker to code, just that you can't teach every coal worker to code, refuting Zuckerberg's Marie-Antoinette-style "let them write code" statement.

    Only the Zuck sounds like an out-of-touch elitist in this case; Bloomberg is making a legitimate point that the retraining process is more complicated than that because it has to be tailored to the skills and interests of each person. The article summary is misleading, and the headline is outright wrong.

  • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:14PM (#46726269) Homepage

    He was the head of Data Systems Development at Solomon Brothers. When that company got bought out, he started a company selling Bloomberg Terminals, which were extremely innovative. He parlayed that into the Bloomberg News service. He grew up middle class with no family connections or a leg up, and now has $33B. That doesn't happen to dumb people.

  • Re:Right! (Score:4, Informative)

    by mooingyak (720677) on Friday April 11, 2014 @01:01PM (#46726791)

    I think you are confusing wisdom for intelligence. Politicians tend to be very wise when it comes to understanding what makes people tick and how to get people to like them enough to vote for them.

    Then they get on Senate committees and blabber on about topics they have absolutely no business talking about because they are ignorant on the subject.

    The intelligent person knows when it's raining. The wise person knows to get in out of the rain.

    He's not confusing them. He's saying there are different types of intelligence. He's also agreeing with the post he replied to, basically saying that retraining politicians to code wouldn't work, but not because they're dumb. Rather because that's not how their brains are wired.

    If goal X can be achieved by action Y, the ability to recognize this and succesfully carry out action Y would be considered a form of intelligence.

    If goal X is get funding for something, and action Y is blather on about crap they know nothing about.... then blathering is a smart move. The morality of such an action is certainly debatable, but that's indepedent of intelligence.

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