The digital revolution has arrived, and it doesn't seem to go away anymore.
Herbert Diess, CEO of the world's largest automotive manufacturer, recently said: "We are evolving into a software company." His company, Volkswagen AG, is not alone in this opinion. For years now, similar statements have been heard from representatives of various sectors, including the banking and insurance industries. De facto, there is no self-contained IT industry anymore, because information technology is omnipresent.
This development gives some of us very bright prospects. The doors are wide open, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the birds are singing! The fact is that digitalization involves far more tasks than there are people who are able to handle them. This is the reason why IT professionals have been in constant demand for years.
"Where there is much light, there is also much shadow", Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
What a golden age for those who carry the digital in their DNA. But the shadows of this development are enormous. Digitization is all about automation. It means that someone who has an administrative task today will no longer be needed tomorrow, because they will be replaced by a computer program. So there are a lot of people out there whose skills are considered worthless in tomorrows world.
On the other hand, it doesn't matter what we do. We simply can't train or retrain enough technical experts. Several independent studies show that the proportion of dropouts among computer science students is about 50%. This is definitely above average compared to other courses. The bottom line is that computer science is still no less complex than rocket science. By sorting out the "capable" from the "incapable", the problem of the shortage of skilled workers becomes even greater. It is not a question of lowering educational standards. Absolutely not. We still need very well-trained computer scientists. The question is, what happens to the overwhelming majority of people who are not part of this technology elite?
This imbalance of digital change poses a great danger. The danger of losing one of the greatest social achievements of all time. Namely the healthy, quite satisfied solvent middle class.
We believe that digital change is based on a false paradigm.
For years we have been desperately trying to impose technical understanding on billions of people. Those who rise to the challenge are richly rewarded. Everyone else is seen as incompetent. The shortage of skilled workers and the low-wage sector have one and the same cause. The more technical the world becomes, the greater the need for technology nerds and the less non-technicians are required. It is that simple.
We have asked ourselves the following questions:
Is technical expertise really a must in order to help shape digital change?
Is the knowledge of an accounting clerk really so worthless, just because it does not contain a portion of technology?
Are 8 billion software developers actually needed to master the respective challenges of digitalization?
We believe we have found the answers to these questions.
How about we just reverse the current paradigm. Instead of hammering the highly complex knowledge of technology into the heads of all 8 billion people, we should rather bring technology itself somewhat closer to humanity.
New technology is often only a hurdle and not really the solution to the problem. We need tools that accommodate the human way of working. Tools that are simple and intuitive to use and do not require three years of study.
We should radically change the way software is developed!
A machine, the computer, is a high-tech thing that only understands a high-tech language.This language contains a lot of cryptic symbols such as " >!#'*§$%&&/(()". So it's no wonder that most people can't do anything with it. For exactly this reason, there are software developers who know the corresponding programming languages. A programming language is not only cryptic, but also very formal. It is exact, forgives no mistakes and does not allow any creative ideas. It has a very unnatural effect on people, since they usually use natural languages to communicate with each other. Until today, programming languages are the primary way to give commands to a computer. Programming software is nothing more than creating a work instruction for a computer. Only those who master this language are able to equip a machine with new capabilities. The software developer is a kind of interpreter who speaks both languages. The language of people and the language of machines.
A software developer is the fundamental component of the software development process. He writes the software. It simply doesn't work without him.
Is it really like that? We are of the opinion that there is another way! We can write software whose purpose it is to write other software. Sounds confusing, but is actually quite simple. We replace the software developer with a program. The task of this program is to capture the requirement in a natural language and translate it into a programming language. So it's exactly the same task that a human being, the software developer, has performed before. Thus, the machine itself is made to understand the natural, human language. The accounting clerk would be able to create a computer program, or at least a part of it, without any technical know-how. All he has to do is convey his administrative expertise to the computer in a natural language. We call this No-Code Development.
We firmly believe that we will soon be able to program complex software using natural language, both written and spoken. With openVALIDATION we are taking a small step in exactly this direction. Thanks to the use of natural languages instead of formal programming languages, digital change would give everyone a fair chance!
Companies and their employees can benefit equally from it
Not only the accounting clerk himself, but also his company can benefit enormously from the use of tools such as openVALIDATION. Many companies are faced with the challenge of cutting jobs in the course of process automation on the one hand, and looking for additional specialists on the other. What would it be like if nobody had to leave? What if there was still an opportunity to master the new challenges with existing employees? If, for example, our accounting clerk, with his professional expertise but without any technical one, could do the same as an IT expert? We believe that using a natural language to specify software in combination with code generation is the solution to this problem!
Some computer scientists believe that software developers are sawing off the branch they're sitting on when they automate the tasks of a software developer. In addition, it usually took software developers several years to acquire their knowledge. Why should anyone who hasn't walked this stony path suddenly be able to do the same things? The counter question is: What do developers use their skills for today? Does it make sense for them to change the color of some buttons from red to green and then move them 2 pixels to the left or for a highly educated computer scientist to build the same online forms over and over again for 10 years? Or if they receive 1000 validation rules as an Excel spreadsheet as a template from the specialist department, which they then translate into source code for weeks? Are these the elite tasks that have to be reserved exclusively for a small circle of technical experts?
In some projects, programmers are often used as pure interpreters. The conception, i.e. the mental work, is often done by the product developers, the business analysts or requirement engineers. The software developer simply receives a work instruction in the form of a technical specification, which he then has to translate into program code. In many cases, this activity is absolutely programmatic and ideally suited to be automated. A developer should only deal with that part of software dvelopment which cannot be automated.
We are firmly convinced that technologies like openVALIDATION do not make software developers obsolete at all, but improve the core of their work by automating the tedious stuff.
We, the technology experts, should use our skills to simplify the highly complex world of technology to a degree that everyone can participate in it. Technology should serve us humans, all of us!
PS: Unless technology one day actually reaches a point where it gains sentience. At the latest, we should probably rethink the whole "serving humans" thing then. ;-)