Why scientists and engineers must learn programming
July 2013 (perspective of a postdoc)
In recent years, there's been an admirable push to get more people to learn programming. But if I've never been exposed to programming, why should I invest all of the effort to learn? What's in it for me?
Pundits often give fuzzy responses like claiming that programming is the "literacy of the twenty-first century," that it helps you become a more empowered citizen, and that it enables you to create magical works of pure creativity.
Even though I agree with many of those claims, I'm not convinced that they're concrete enough to motivate someone to devote the thousands of hours necessary to get proficient at programming.
Instead of trying to convince everyone to learn programming, I have a more modest goal: encouraging scientists and engineers. Here's my value proposition to them:
If you're a scientist or engineer, programming can enable you to work 10 to 100 times faster and to come up with more creative solutions than your colleagues who don't know how to program.