Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tim Cook's Mass Coding Jobs Push Is Misplaced And Dangerous

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Kids are socially dysfnnctional as it is without adding more apps, compliments of 2 million more  app creators!

In his recent (2 weeks ago) interview on the MSNBC special "Revolution' Apple CEO Tim Cook held court before a techie audience at a Chicago tech high school. Cook made some clearly outlandish claims - at least a sensible person watching would hope they are!- including 2 million coding jobs in the pipeline by 2025.  The other was a push to integrate coding into college science subjects - which has to be the dumbest idea I've heard since some loon proposed teaching creationism along side evolution.

"Wah! Wait, Mr. Copernicus! Coding IS great, it IS science!"

No, it is not. Well, ok, there is computer science - which I also took- but it is generally taken supplementary to actual science courses,. Most college physics, chemistry and biology curricula are packed as it is and many profs are hard pressed to cover all the required material, including labs, without adding coding.   And to make this idiotic plan a reality you'd basically have to double or triple the credit hours for each subject - e.g. for a 4 hour weekly General Physics course- you'd need to expand it to 8 or even 10 hours.  Note this is if Cook's plan of doing coding along side physics (or other subjects) is accepted. If, however, the student already knows programming and can do it - say for a numerical plasma model - it won't encroach on regular class time.

At the University of Alaska- Fairbanks, all science majors - certainly in the upper levels, also took Fortran but as a separate, ancillary course.  The coding (programming) then worked along side the physics topics, without encroaching on teaching time.   If a numerical model, say to replicate Boltzmann's velocity distribution, was assigned, it could be done and enhance class learning of the material. But it didn't compete with class material and detract from it.

Cook's other preposterous claim was to describe for Chris Hayes how 2 million coding jobs are on the horizon. I sincerely hope not! Personally, I believe the coding craze is over-hyped.                             Also we've beheld this sort of emphasis from Apple's CEOs before, e.g. in the person of Wunderkind Steve Jobs.  As the website, "Having the Conversation' reminded us:

"One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the value of computer donations. The bill was clearly a corporate tax break, but it was framed in terms of educational gaps"
Cook's theme on 'Revolution' is therefore not new, other than that now the creation of "apps" dominates and is said to hold out the promise of more employment opportunity. "Lordy be, we gotta have more apps! We need 2 million more app coders!" No, we do not! The evidence already is ample to show that the proliferation of apps is having a destructive effect on the minds  of younger Americans and the political fabric and relationships of older ones.
But for Cook to suggest  2 million more  app jobs is a nightmare world.Why? Take a look at the recent (April 23) TIME article, 'The Masters of  Mind Control',  wherein we learn  how these app techies in Silicon Valley are turning kids' brains to mush and adults into slaves tethered to their smart phones. (See also the WSJ piece yesterday, 'The Instant Message Generation Gap', on how so many 20 and 30 -something workers are "elated to use apps like Slack so they no longer have to mind spelling or grammar."  It also noted how older bosses and employees disdain IM apps, and prefer email,, but have been pushed into doing IM - which means they are now "on call" at an instant, 24/7.  Pardon me, but this is bullshit insane.

Apart from the tethering there is the addiction aspect which Cook soft soaped in his MSNBC appearance. We learn the average American (not me, I don't own one): 

"Every day checks a smart phone 47 times on average or once every 19 minutes, spending roughly 5 hours peering at screens' silvery glow."


"There's no good consensus yet on what all this means for children's brains, adolescents' moods, and the future of our democratic institutions."

My bet is the consensus will ultimately be that all this screen time and app use is deleterious to mental and physical well being. Most disconcerting, a 2017  University of Texas study found that the mere presence of smart phones, down on the desk in front of users, undercuts the ability to perform cognitive tasks. That is, turning users into veritable dummies.  Then we also learn Silicon Valley's business model is to "keep us in thrall to our screens". 

The longer people are glued to an app - called  eyeball time - "the more money its creators make by selling our attention and access to personal data to advertisers and others."

In other words, we are not really customers or consumers but "products to be sold"

So 2 million more app  creators will likely increase the citizen to "product" mutation by ten fold not to mention the dumbing down and addiction effects. Exaggeration?  Not when former Google employee Tristan Harris, and Facebook investor Roger McNamee, (ibid.)  have flat out accused the tech giants of "deliberately creating addictive products without regard to human or social health."

And then we behold (p. 36)  the likes of Nir Eyal author of 'Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products'  who also runs a "Habit Summit" workshop , where participants pay up to $1,700 for the three day conference  where they are given "practical steps to design habit forming products."

THAT is why we don't need or want 2 million more app creators! Especially, as the "market" - devoid of any moral compass -  will almost always veer toward the lowest common denominator. E.g.  cheering the  most socially inimical (but profit generating) products whether video games like Grand Theft Auto  V where users get to  virtual rape assorted females, or the stupefying, zombie-inducing game of Candy crush.

Then there are the other nefarious aspects of apps, related to tracking users, especially kids. A new study by  UC Berkeley showed that of 6.000 apps in the Google Playstore a majority were in likely violation of the Children's  Online Privacy Protection Act.  Also the study found up to 57 percent may collect data without parental permission. This data includes GPS location and email addresses. These are then shared with advertisers.   As one of the study's lead authors noted on an NBC News segment two nights ago, the data is often used to "build dossiers on individuals. "   One of these apps that transmits GPS location is "Fun Kids Racing" which has been DL'd  50 million times.

Tim Cook made very little mention of any of this in his prime time performance, but why would he? If he can get two million more app makers in the pipeline to create two million more apps  - or even one thousand - that is tons of money in Apple's  already bloated pockets.   That leaves it to consumers to put the brakes on and cease allowing the techies to raid and hobble their minds, or render them virtual "coke" junkies always needing the next screen "hit".

On the other hand, if Apple, Google and others can come up with more (non-addictive, non-invasive) math and science apps I am all  for them. Say an app that can predict the result of any given chemical equation, before a student or teacher actually performs the lab experiment.   But hey, it's doubtful such  apps would rake in the profits that the addictive apps do.

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