Clive Thompson at Wired has an interesting suggestion, that coding should be accessible enough for anyone with an idea to be able to readily be able to implement it. He uses the example of an app that helps deal with texting while driving made possible by Google’s Android App Inventor.
So what if the phone knew you were driving—and responded on its own?
Normally, Finnegan wouldn’t have been able to do anything with his insight. He was a creative-writing major at the University of San Francisco, not a programmer. But he’d enrolled in a class where students were learning to use Google’s App Inventor, a tool that makes it pretty easy to hack together simple applications for Android phones by fitting bits of code together like Lego bricks.
Finnegan set to work, and within a month he’d created an app called No Text While Driving. When you get into your car, you hit a button on the app and it autoresponds to incoming texts with “I’m driving right now, I’ll contact you shortly.” I’ve used the app, and it’s terrific: By getting you off the hook socially, it makes your driving safer. It ought to be available—mandatory, even—on every phone.
I like the further implications, that programming literacy would help everyone more effectively filter out bullshit, elitist claims made by the relative few who are fluent at coding now. I think there is a pleasant counter-intuition for pros like myself, that the more easily everyone can code up any interesting idea, the more likely the skills of an experienced programmer will be in demand to take it that much further.