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Businesses Programming

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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  • He's right! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:42AM (#46725815)

    Coding is not for everyone, and simply putting everyone into tech-training is not the answer (it will just create another problem).

    • by invictusvoyd (3546069) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:54AM (#46725997)
      Possible . With a lot of effort a team of bright minds could teach hulk hogan to do some java . But then , who's gonna fight the undertaker??
      • by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:58AM (#46726755)

        +1 snarky but insightful. there are a bunch of jobs that need to be done and we all have a role to play. I would suggest that Zuck focus his attention on the children of coal miners in rural areas, and help educate them for job opportunities (such as coding) that are not coal mining.

        • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:26PM (#46730305)

          focus his attention on the children of coal miners in rural areas, and help educate them for job opportunities (such as coding) that are not coal mining.

          Indeed. And one of the ways of doing that is not destroying their parents' livelihoods faster than society can adapt. Children of the long term unemployed (or underemployed) have a much lower chance of reaching an education level (and hence work) commensurate with their true capability. That reduces social mobility, resulting in multi-generational welfare dependency.

      • by lgw (121541) on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:37PM (#46727255) Journal

        But that's just it: Hulk Hogan was a skilled worker, a top-notch entertainer.

        People need to stop focusing on "tech". Unskilled jobs are going away, as are non-creative semi-skilled jobs. That doesn't mean the only alternative is "tech". There are many skilled jobs in the world, and many semi-skilled jobs requiring human creativity.

        A better way to state the question: half the population has sub-median intelligence. In a world of increasing automation, what jobs will there be? It doesn't take much to be a better job than mining coal: the bar is low here. But it won't be manual labor.

        I expect a swell in interpersonal service jobs. Unskilled (and non-creative semi-skilled) jobs that used to be only for servants of the rich have grown vastly in numbers as everyone else starts to able to hire the same: gardeners, maids, etc. But the same is stating to happen with creative semi-skilled jobs, and often without the class distinction spas and salons, decorators, drivers, personal shoppers, home theater installers, and so on. We're struggling to replace traditional roles with peer-to-peer roles for a lot of this (think Lyft).

        The nice thing is, you don't need to be above average, smarts-wise, to do a competent job at a lot of this stuff. You need to be interested, to care about getting it right, but that's different.

    • Re:He's right! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by schlachter (862210) on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:06PM (#46726855)

      Of course not all coal miners will want to be coders, but why can't you teach a coal miner to code? And why do people assume that coal miners are not interested in coding. And why do people assume they don't have the intellectual ability to handle it.

    • You can teach them to code, but I don't think most of them will want to code.

      People are not stupid they can learn... However (especially in america) people identify themselves with the work that they do. The fact that they identify themselves as a miner is an important aspect to themselves, attributes that make a good miner are attributes that the person values and strives in themselves. Physical Strength, Courage, Hard Work, working with big equipment...
      Taking this person and tell them that you need Pati

    • by x0ra (1249540)
      This is utter bs. Indeed, everyone can not be a good programmer, but a good programmer can emerge from anyone.
    • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday April 11, 2014 @01:37PM (#46727935)
      Well, they could learn data mining.

      .

      .

      ....I'll see meself out.

      .
  • by eyepeepackets (33477) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:43AM (#46725817)

    ...requires foundations laid down in the 5th and 6th grade of school, mostly math, but also the interest and desire to learn. Some people get it, some don't get it. 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Rob Kaper (5960)

      Watch out for those blanket generalizations, they bite back.

      Nothing is said about the ability of coal miners to learn how to code. You just can't teach them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's ridiculous. You can teach them, the issue here is that coding is not the only job out there and flooding the field with more coders doesn't spontaneously mean there's more coding that needs to be done or more people willing to pay.

        This is about that asshole from FB advocating for a policy that would drive down the wages of programmers by flooding the market. It has nothing at all to do with the ability of coal miners to be taught or anything else.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The real issue is that some kinds of people would never be having this sort of pedantic discussion in the first place. They're not stupid enough to get bogged down in the subtle distinctions (from their point of view; to us it's plain as day) that allow us to do our jobs.

          Next time you have an argument with your girlfriend, I dare you to try to distinguish between "I didn't say that," and "I said something different than that." When you're crying over losing your girlfriend, you'll see that in many context

          • by xevioso (598654)

            However, strict logic when speaking may make you an asshole, but it tends to make you a great lawyer. Funny how that works.

        • by Thud457 (234763) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:17AM (#46726321) Homepage Journal
          It seems like some of the less deep thinkers these days get confused by our societal value of equality.
          When the founding fathers said said "all men are created equal", they meant that the government should treat everybody the same out of general fairness.
          They didn't mean that Dr J and Albert Einstein have the same attributes.

          Anyhow, you most likely won't be successful retraining most coal miners to write code.
          But it's not much of a stretch for most coders, particularly brogrammers like Marky Z, to learn to shovel shit.
      • by mopower70 (250015)

        Watch out for those blanket generalizations, they bite back.

        Nothing is said about the ability of coal miners to learn how to code. You just can't teach them.

        lolwut? "Oh, they can learn, they just can't be taught." So they arrive at these new skill-sets organically through osmosis?

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:47AM (#46725879) Homepage

      I don't think anybody is saying "there is no coal miner on the planet you can teach to code".

      What they're saying is "do not count on training all coal miners to write code and expect that to work".

      Zuckerschmuck saying "teach them to code and everything will be great", then he really is clueless and out of touch. But, we knew that anyway.

      • by jythie (914043)
        Well put. People are focusing too much on the specific combination here and skipping over the reference to the more general problem with Zuckericanneverrmemberthespelling's overly focused solution.
        • by msauve (701917)
          "Zuckericanneverrmemberthespelling"

          It's Zucker of Borg. You will be assimilated.

          HTH! HAND!
      • Most of those "do this and you'll be fine!" folks are generally out of touch. If you spend all day around smart engineers, it's pretty easy to think that most of them will be able to make a career shift fairly easily. But when you interact with people that aren't so sharp fairly regularly, it's overwhelmingly easy to conclude that those folks are shit out of luck. I think in the next 20 years, many of the repetitive simple jobs will be reduced such that we're going to have a hard time finding things for the
      • by ZeroPly (881915) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:08AM (#46726199)
        Additionally, this is a false dichotomy. A coal miner might not be interested in coding, or suited for it, but he might be great at putting engines into the new model Tesla. It's the TOTAL number of high-paying jobs that's important, and people tend to gravitate to what they like. I could never imagine working nine to five on an auto assembly line, but that's what people did 50 years ago at GM, for $20 an hour before the cheap labor conservatives came along and crapped in the punch bowl.

        Focus on the important things. Tie the H-1B visa allocation to unemployment, so that if unemployment is above say 6%, the visa quota goes to zero. Put the screws down on trade with China and India. There will be plenty of non-coding jobs for coal miners. We've tried "free trade" for the last thirty years, ask a 22 year old on their 500th resume submission how well that's worked out for us.
        • Tradeoffs (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sjbe (173966) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:35AM (#46726515)

          It's the TOTAL number of high-paying jobs that's important, and people tend to gravitate to what they like.

          You seem to overlook the fact that if there are high paying jobs there must, by definition, be low paying jobs as well. Not everyone can have high paying jobs simultaneously anymore than everyone can have an above average IQ. In the long run economic growth can benefit everyone, rich and poor alike. In the short run however it is something close to a zero sum game. If you make one person wealthier you are making another poorer at least temporarily. If you have a larger pool of high paying jobs, in the short run you necessary are making the pot of money available to lower wages workers smaller.

          You might be able to implement policies that benefit most/all people in the long run but there will be some short term pain in the process.

          I could never imagine working nine to five on an auto assembly line, but that's what people did 50 years ago at GM, for $20 an hour before the cheap labor conservatives came along and crapped in the punch bowl.

          People get paid that much TODAY to work on some lines at GM. $20/hour is roughly $40K/year. Not exactly a huge salary in the US these days. There are plenty of assembly workers that get paid well in excess of $20/hour.

          Furthermore it isn't "cheap labor conservatives" that limit pay at the automakers. You could have had to most generous liberal management you could envision in charge of GM and Chrysler and they still would have gone bankrupt. What primarily limits direct labor pay is competition. Labor is a huge percentage of the cost of building vehicles. That means that production will gravitate towards locations with cheaper labor costs. Ford, GM and Chrysler in years past agreed to labor contracts that were simply not economically sustainable in the long run. When new competitors with lower labor costs entered the market, the Big Three were unable to adjust their cost structure to match. (Note, this isn't an anti-labor screed. Management shoulders a huge portion of the blame here) Labor costs had to come down and that ultimately meant some combination of lost jobs and lower pay rates. It was simply economic "physics" at work - a reversion to the mean.

          • by ZeroPly (881915)
            Yes, of course there will be low paying jobs as well. But we need high paying jobs to move the median up. Fifty years ago the biggest employer in the US was GM. Today the biggest employer is Walmart. It is not zero sum - creation of high paying jobs does not necessarily reduce the number of lowing pay ones, in fact it would increase them. If we put a 200% tariff on Chinese manufacturing and moved iPad work to the US, you would still need janitors and cafeteria workers.

            Auto production gravitates to places wi
          • by mikael (484)

            Highly-paid people still need to eat, drink (bars, cafes, restaurants), buy clothes, shoes (stores, sales assistants, sales managers), maintain their appearance (hairdressers, barbers, estheticians), keep healthy (fitness centres, doctors, dentists), and then they'll want to live somewhere pleasant (architects, landscape gardners), may want to explore their inner self (yoga instructors, meditation), learn new skills (community college), may want to be driven somewhere (taxi drivers, chaffeurs, limo services

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          We've tried "free trade" for the last thirty years, ask a 22 year old on their 500th resume submission how well that's worked out for us.

          That 22 year-old might not hear you, because he'll be too busy staring at the screen of his smartphone, which he was able to afford because the Western companies developing the technology were able to outsource the manufacture to somewhere cheaper. Knocking down trade barriers does have its drawbacks, but it also allowed the explosion of cheap electronics that people to

          • The person working "somewhere cheaper" might also tell that 22 year old "screw you, I need to feed my starving family, you can file that 501st job application."

            People complaining about outsourcing "because jobs" seem to be remarkably selfish in my book, unless theyre living in conditions as bad as the person in China who got their job.

      • by Warbothong (905464) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:09AM (#46726203) Homepage

        Zuckerschmuck saying "teach them to code and everything will be great", then he really is clueless and out of touch. But, we knew that anyway.

        More likely is that Zuckerberg, being at the top of an established pyramid, would love to see a huge influx of programmers into the job market.

        Wages would come down, saving money for all established players. Average quality would also come down, making it more difficult for startups to disrupt the status quo.

        It's the same as all this visa and lack-of-STEM nonsense.

      • by bitt3n (941736)

        I don't think anybody is saying "there is no coal miner on the planet you can teach to code".

        What they're saying is "do not count on training all coal miners to write code and expect that to work".

        The problem is that by running with the most plausible interpretation, you give up the opportunity to shake your head sadly whilst piously intoning moral platitudes.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        To be fair to Zuck I don't think he ever said every coal miner could become a programmer, merely that if you start teaching it from a fairly young age at school the majority of children could become computer literate (able to write some basic software or a web page) and the number of highly skilled ones would increase dramatically too.

        I think it should be clear by now that simply being able to use Word and Excel to a basic level is not going to cut it this century. There is also the argument that programmin

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:52AM (#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.

      • by _UnderTow_ (86073)

        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.

        More like "could have come straight from whoever originally said 'let them eat cake'". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:59AM (#46726083) Homepage

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

        Let them eat code.

      • If you teach someone to program, by definition they'll be a programmer. It's a tautology.

        What language it is (I bet a lot of people could handle TI-BASIC*), how well they learn it, and how useful the end result is are further considerations.

        This topic seems rife with terminology problems and ridiculous blanket statements by all sides.

        *Although compared to real programming languages, it's a rather terrible place to start. The 83+ version has GOTOs and the only way you can get functions is by some horrible la

        • Good lord, there's 4 different Wikipedia articles for Tautology, and they all look like they're talking about almost exactly the same thing.

          Tautology (rhetoric), a self-reinforcing pretense of significant truth
          Tautology (grammar), the use of redundant words
          Tautology (logic), a universal truth in formal logic
          Tautology (rule of inference), a rule of replacement for logical expressions

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:36AM (#46726523) Homepage

          If you teach someone to program, by definition they'll be a programmer.

          Not really. Not by a long shot.

          I can teach you to take a photograph, that doesn't make you a photographer.

          You can teach someone the concept of coding, and they might even make a couple of simple programs.

          That doesn't make you a 'programmer' any more than giving someone a driving lesson makes them a race car driver.

          I've encountered people who could, in some ways, write code. But since they didn't have the slightest idea of how to do it well or effectively, they were dangerous amateurs who believed they were programmers. We had one guy (lasted less than a month) who wrote garbage code like a first year student with no real understanding. Trying to make him understand the difference between what he wrote and what we needed was futile. I eventually walked away from him, told him he was useless, and stopped giving him tasks. My manager, upon seeing his code, went the next step and got rid of him

          Trust me. In practice, there is a very large difference between "knowing how to write some code 'n stuff" and actually being proficient at designing, writing, and maintaining software.

          Hell, I've know a few people with Masters degrees in CS who are actually terrible programmers. They can make something which kinda works for their area of research, but in general, they were useless.

          I even knew one guy who said he had a Masters in CS who had never coded before -- how that happened boggles my mind. That's like being a chemist who has never been in a lab.

    • > requires foundations laid down in the 5th and 6th grade of school, mostly math, but also the interest and desire to learn.

      I'm good to very good at math and interested in computers. So I thought I would be a programmer. I couldn't quite figure out some concepts as easily but more importantly there were some people that could code in circles around me. Depends also on the language used, textbooks and documentation. Some people have it some don't and you most certainly can't teach that. You also can't re

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:05AM (#46726167) Homepage Journal

      The statement is about a solution for a group. The simple truth is that your not going to solve the problem of unemployment in West Virginia if you stop all coal mining by trying to teach the coal miners to code. A few might but it will not be a solution.
      The real truth is that if you do shut down the coal mines "not going to happen" you will have massive unemployment. Towns will become ghost towns, people will move away, schools will close, people will default on their homes, and businesses will shut down.
      The only way to prevent this would be for new jobs to move in exactly as the mines shut down. You would need to get companies to put in manufacturing or some other kind of mining in sync with shutting down the mines. Good luck with that.

      That is one reason I am really disappointed with Motorola being sold off, I was hopping that it would be a new start to manufacturing in the US. I would also love to see the US Gov do more to help the General Aviation industry. Most GA planes where made in the US and support a lot of really good paying jobs at FBOs and small airports across the country. Think of General Aviation as a good way to take money from the upper class and spread to to the middle class.

      The coal mines will not shut down because they have the political perfect storm as a tool. The coal mines are usually in states with republican reps. The miners are in unions so they have the democrats that are pro union to support them. So both parties will support coal for a very long time.

  • Yes, they're not going to be designing algorithms, but there is plenty of grunt work to do too. There is a reason the term 'computer janitor' exists.

  • cause we all know there aren't enough project managers who could coal mine

    • We could use more PMs, but we have another problem: most PMs are terrible; and, although you can apply PM effectively to anything, you are a hell of a lot more effective if you have foundational knowledge of the project's domain.

      Miyomoto Musashi said that a foreman must know all aspects of a carpenter: once the carpenter has lain floors, and built furniture, and carved designs and cut wedges and doors and columns, he can be a foreman. A good foreman can move from carpentry to a steel factory; but he w

  • The point I take from it is it's silly to think that all you do to fix the skills/jobs gap it so send people to school. Some people will have the ability to make huge transitions in careers, but most will be looking for equivalent work. It's how sociology works. You have to look at demographics and odds, not best wishes and theories.

    That being said, I hope this is a lesson to communities, cities, and states that throw all their economic eggs into one industrial basket. No matter how good the gettin' is, you're screwed if that industry takes a big hit.

    • by Pinkfud (781828)
      I spent a decade as a coal miner in my youth. I even earned a license as a blasting supervisor. And I can code. I don't code for a living, but yeah, I can code. I find the implication that coal miners are somehow too dumb to learn anything else mildly offensive. Many coal miners are the product of a family that has done the same work for generations, and just kind of inherited the job. Same with farmers. But that doesn't mean they are incapable of doing anything else.
  • by sandbagger (654585) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:47AM (#46725877)

    How is this shocking? People have different temperaments, skills and interests.

  • Bloomberg as always is full of it. Coal miners aren't dumb people, they are far from it. I suggest you try and find the Spike TV mini-series entitled "Coal." You will learn quite a bit about mining coal from it.

    • Bloomberg as always is full of it. Coal miners aren't dumb people, they are far from it.

      Good thing he didn't actually say that, then. Seriously, dude, RTFA.

      Of course, on the other end of the scale, coders aren't necessarily smart people, either. They have a certain skill, no more, no less.

      Kinda like coal miners.

    • This is the IT trap.

      IT people always look down on all the other morons and retards staffed in the building. They're stupid enough to look up to us, after all. Dumb bitches in HR, accounting, finance, lawyers who don't know a fucking thing about anything except legal bullshittery, CEOs and executives who can't find their ass with both hands.

      Yeah uh, I've run an income statement. Would you like to try? When you finish crying, you can come suck my dick.

      We need executives. My company doesn't have al

  • Enough said. As more and more people become familiar with it, people would realize how easy it is to code. The standard canard has been women don't code, or they don't code well. We have hired women coders and they do as good a job as men.
  • I'd like to interpret Bloomberg's statement to mean that it isn't realistic (or even desirable) to expect every blue-collar worker to be able to retrain in a highly technical field. Sure, some would be able to make that transition, but it's like asking programmers if they would have the desire to become physicians. It's not that people aren't smart or dedicated enough to do it, so much as it is the idea that a career in the tech sector is not some universal solution to everyone's job woes.

    I also think tha

    • by jythie (914043)
      That is how I interpret it, a quick sound byte attaching a particular pairing of blue collar and white collar positions to point out the problem with the whole 'well, blue collar workers will just become white collar ones' approach to the issue.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:49AM (#46725931)

    if you are transitioning from one skill/job to, say, software, you'll probably be over 30, and maybe over 40.

    just tell me this: who would hire an aging programmer, just starting out, when you can more easily abuse immigrants and h1b's who are young and will work overtime for free and deny the value of a personal life?

    we have a major problem with companies not being socially responsible. they don't care that an aging population is being wholesale REJECTED by corporate america and worse than that, local US born and raised citizens are second class, now; with imported labor or outsourced labor being first class.

    an idea: give tax incentives or other incentives for companies that go out of their way to hire locals/americans and even bigger bonuses to companies that go out of their way to hire older (over 35, cough) people. not saying you punish those companies who don't; but you give them extra benefits so as to motivate them.

    companies only look out for their bottom line. they would sell their mother into slavery for a higher share price. the only way to keep a balance of social responsibility and prosperity is to give incentives, to guide better behavior.

    (I'm over 50, have been looking for work for a while now, and I'm getting nothing; no interviews and certainly no offers. I have a lot of experience and a good work ethic, but it does no one any good if the companies routinely dismiss anyone with more than 2 pages of resume experience, since they are seen as 'too expensive' to hire).

    • by slapyslapslap (995769) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:58AM (#46726057)
      Stop sending resumes with more than 2 pages of resume experience....Just send the last 3-4 jobs. Hardly anyone cares about anything older than 15 years anyway. Tailor your resume for the job you are applying for. Besides that, resumes that are too long make you look like you are either a job hopper or a bullshit artist, or both.
    • (I'm over 50, have been looking for work for a while now, and I'm getting nothing; no interviews and certainly no offers. I have a lot of experience and a good work ethic, but it does no one any good if the companies routinely dismiss anyone with more than 2 pages of resume experience, since they are seen as 'too expensive' to hire).

      You would think somebody could make a mint hiring older coders. Here you have a bunch of people who've spent decades thinking logically about novel solutions to problems and are starved for work. Or just get a bunch of old coders together and start a software project. Apps or some shit. Or something you can sell to Yahoo for a billion dollars. Older coders are sitting around doing nothing, and there's gold in them thar hills.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Depends on the type of coder, I've met too many old coders who try to keep the memory use low, performance high but code complexity is terrible because it's all one giant spaghetti ball of code.

        For example now at work I've created a system which has a single master procedure( productionId, datasetId, stepId ) where NULL in the last two means all sets, all steps. I know some of the steps would be more efficient if merged, I know some contain one-time setup (but is hard to extract out) that's repeated many ti

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:50AM (#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.

  • I don't know about Bloomberg in particular, but it now seems almost common wisdom among the elite that college isn't for everyone and now skills like programming aren't either.

    While those words are true, what they mean in practice is that 'not for everyone' means 'not for the poor and working class' (poverty is a strong predictor of college eduction). I bet Bloomberg's kids go to college and he wouldn't doubt his non-technical buddies' ability to learn to code based on their job descriptions

    What happened to

  • ...hope that I never have to learn how to mine coal. Despite what Heinlein said about specialization, I'm much better at writing code than at mining. (And yes, I did a little recreational mining a couple of decades ago when I was into mineral collecting as a hobby.)
  • There isn't that much coding work in the world. High demand is not infinite demand.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:55AM (#46726015)

    There's no reason to train every worker to "code", we don't suffer from a lack of coders, we suffer from a lack of "developers", and no 6 week software bootcamp is going to turn someone with no programming experience into a developer. Besides, the average coal miner is probably not going to want to sit in front of a computer all day (many in my family work in the heavy construction industry, and I am 100% certain that although you could probably teach my brother to code, you're not going to be able to teach him to sit behind a desk all day).

    But there are plenty of other jobs that you *could* teach a former coal miner to do -- not everyone in the economy needs to be a coder any more than everyone needs to be an auto mechanic just because we all (well, mostly) drive cars.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:55AM (#46726019)

    Bloomberg has a valid point. It's also the reason most people can't be fashion models ("he's so hot right now").. There is also something to be said for nerdly predispositions and interests, which goes a long way in determining whether someone can become a successful coder.

    On a more general note, Bloomberg has struggled far more to "earn" his billions and has seen far more of the world than Zuckerberg, who in turn strikes me as an incredibly naiive, deer-in-the-headlights, I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-here, I-just-won-the-nerd-lottery sort of person: his proclamations simply don't carry that much weight.

  • A Poem, by TFHF (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrollingForHostFiles (3613155) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:56AM (#46726027) Homepage Journal

    I'd rather write
    Host files at midnight
    Than pass my days
    Hacking at lignite

    BURMA SHAVE

  • You think this could have been said some thirty years ago?

    Actually, I do remember on a Charlie ROse show, Charles Murray said something like: "Not very many people with 80 IQs can be successful mathematicians." [1]. He then went on to say, "Fortunately most people with 80 IQs don't want to be mathematicians."

    Of course everyone was trashing Murray at the time.

    [1] Not to conflate coal miners with people with 80 IQs.

  • by masonc (125950) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:58AM (#46726065) Homepage

    Let's try to evaluate this in a non-partisan grown up way. By coding, Bloomberg is referring to America's move to eliminate all blue collar work by sending it abroad to China and Brazil, and to create great opportunities for academic pursuits, financial services and intellectual property. If there was a strong manufacturing sector, miners could be retrained to work in factories, with all the health benefits over mining, but those jobs got exported to make the multi-national companies richer and more powerful. Since large companies now own the American political process, all political efforts are concentrated on making the rich more rich at the expense of the working people.This doesn't end well.

    • If those factories were still in the US they'd use far more automation and employ only a fraction of the labour they use overseas and used in the past in the US.

  • I think Bloomie meant than any one job category isnt going to a panecea for unemployement. That is you cant teach and motivate everyone to be coders or health workers or roustabouts. However, its dumb to say that any one particular profession cant learn another. A given miner may could become a great programmer. But not all of them.
  • Zuckerberg says you can teach anyone to code.
    Mayor of NYC says you can't.
    News at 11.

    I think we really need to get Morgan Freeman's take on this issue.

  • I can code in multiple languages on multiple systems and have been doing it for a shit load of years .. and right now I am sitting in front of OSX, Windows 7 and Debian systems.

    But suppose my choice of career was suddenly cut short for some reason (the singularity?) what would it take for me to learn a bunch of manual skills in order to become a productive member of society? And to learn them to the same skill level I have now?

    Basically I would be fucked as I have spent all these years adapting to intelle

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Though I never said I could type .. that was meant to be novel not oval solutions. Damn auto-correct.

  • by prefec2 (875483) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:28AM (#46726447)

    During the so called New Economy bubble I worked at an ISP and development shop. We tried to get more developers, but this was harder than expected. While the average CS student was more or less able to code, retrained ex-lorry drivers and bricklayers sent to us by the employment center where all unable to conceptualize problems maybe they would have been able to type in things we specified, but creative thinking was not their string side. Like, not everyone can run like Usian Bolt. Therefore, we need jobs for everyone suitable for their abilities.

  • by swframe (646356) on Friday April 11, 2014 @02:06PM (#46728219)
    I moved to a 3rd world country a year ago to look for ways to motivate people to learn to code. I thought it would be easier in a place where the benefits and needs are the greatest. It is much harder than I thought... I used to think the people just needed the funds to go to school, a patient personal tutor and/or extremely simple lessons (think computer game).

    One person (~12 years old, on school vacation) simply would not learn code. I mean, the person would not consider it for any reason. I noticed that the person can play flappy bird with a high score of 71. I justed wanted to see if a very well done game environment might motivate them. Out of curious, I asked the person to play the Ouya game, Clark, that involves solving puzzles. The person gave up after hitting a puzzle in which you have to position two blocks to prevent the robot from being killed by 2 lasers.

    In another case, I was able to convince the person (~27 year-old, college graduate) to take the javascript class at code academy but it didn't sink in. This person works at a restaurant where they make $10/day working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I've explained to them that as software developer they can make in a year roughly what they would currently make in 30 years. I agreed to pay them to take a leave from work to learn javascript. After getting about a third of the way through the course, they still made mistakes that they should have learned in the first 5 lessons. (They couldn't remember where to put {}, (), commas, semicolons, function arguments, variable names, etc.) After 3 weeks, I decide to try a different approach. I showed them simple functions like max(number1,number2) or indexOf(array, value), etc. They could look at the solution as long as they liked. I explained it to them. The functions were only a few lines long. Then I hid the function and asked them to write it from scratch using a syntax aware IDE. If they got stuck they could look at the answer and I would explain where they were going wrong. It still took several attempts for them to write the function even when shown the answer. After that first day of the new approach, I thought I found a way get them to remember the syntax but the next day the person quit and returned to work at the restaurant.

    I worked with several other people and the results are consistent. Coding is a kind of puzzle solving problem that people dislike intensely.

    Out the 10 or so people, I tried to help only one has gotten very far. She is 51 year-old mother of 3, and I was surprised by that. I was actually trying to convince her kids (27, 18 and 14) to learn.

    It is an interesting problem. I think there is a path to get people over their resistance but it is not obvious to me so far.

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