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Peter Wang: Scripting Society (PyCon US Keynote, 2022) – how many programmers does the world need?

One question I like to ask everyone, I’ll just give you a moment to think about: how many software devs are there out there in the world?

100 thousand? Probably more than that.

100 million? Definitely not.

How many are there? When I did some research into this the numbers all seemed to converge somewhere around 25 million, maybe a little more, maybe a little less than that.

But if you put that in perspective on how many people there are on the planet, it’s 0.3%

So, if this room [of 2000 people] was he population of earth, those 6 people are your software developers… If three of you sit down, the three people left are Python Programmers. Half of that again are people who know enough stats to do some data science and ML. And a single one of those people is your AI / ML engineer. All of the rest of you have to use the systems that she builds, that she twiddles the knobs for.

0.1% of the population has anything approaching the skills and capability to do machine learning [and], AI. The point of this is that this is not a good state of affairs. This is the state of affairs today and it will continue to be the state of affairs unless we do something dramatically different.

One of the things that I found very inspiring when I lived in Boston was the Boston Public Library had this huge engraving on the side that says “The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty.”

Democratization and computer literacy – computational literacy as well as data literacy – are foundational to ensure an open and free future for humankind.

So when we created SciPy and PyData and we did all these things to try to spearhead the Open Science movement, that was to ensure that Machine Learning and business computation in a cybernetic world had at least some Open Source and accessible foundations.

With PyScript I’m really hoping that we can broaden that mission to the broader web and to computing in general. Computing for the people, and for their communities.

Peter Wang – Keynote, PyCon US, 2022

I liked this talk, and I’m sympathetic to Wang’s point… but is he right that this apparently small percentage of coders is a big problem? 25 million is still a lot of people – and the proportion becomes relatively bigger if you only count the working age population (roughly 65% of the world’s total population).

By comparison, there are about 85 million teachers worldwide and presumably far fewer curriculum designers and teacher trainers. The world market for machine tools is approximately 1/1000th of the world economy, or 0.1%.

How many toolmakers do we need?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...

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