Dev

Linux creator Linus Torvalds: I do not believe everybody should learn to code

Above: Linus Torvalds on stage in Edinburgh, Scotland

Image Credit: Business Insider

Even Linus Torvalds, one of the most influential computer scientists alive today, doesn’t believe everybody should learn to code.

Torvalds, the creator of Linux and Git (a version control system for dev teams, and the technology behind GitHub), opened up for an unusually lengthy Q&A this weekend. Now 44, Torvalds shaped modern computing, and yet his views contrast recent learn-to-code campaigns like Codecademy’s Code Year.

When asked about the future of computer science education, Torvalds said, “I actually don’t believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code. I think it’s reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math.”

While enthusiasm for computer science is high — even President Obama is into it — many developers have reacted negatively to learn-to-code campaigns. The pervading counterargument, it seems, simply claims that programming isn’t for everyone.

However, Torvalds clarified that “there may well be lots of people who never realized that they might actually like telling computers what to do.” For this, he says, “computer courses in schools are a great idea” — even if he doesn’t “believe in the everybody-should-learn-to-code thing.”

That said, I think people should have some way of getting exposure to it, just so that people who find that they enjoy it and have the aptitude know about the possibility. Not because everybody will want to or need to learn, but just because it is a great vocation, and there may well be lots of people who never realized that they might actually like telling computers what to do. So in that sense I think computer courses in schools are a great idea, even if I do not believe in the “everybody-should-learn-to-code” thing.

Check out Torvald’s interview in full.

58 comments
Flavio Kodama
Flavio Kodama

not everybody learns math. but I dont believe they should not.

Kat Boddy
Kat Boddy

Being a software developer for well over 10 years and having to fix code written by "everybody-can-code" coders on numerous occasions I agree 100%.  Too many people writing spaghetti without basics of computer science, being simply hired because they're cheap. Then, you get a client coming to you with this:

http://cheezburger.com/6311631360


conor cassidy
conor cassidy

not everyone is cut out to be a software engineer but it is still important to teach it and try to learn it

Kyle Maune
Kyle Maune

Not everyone is cut out to be a software engineer. I agree 100% with Linus on this one.

conor cassidy
conor cassidy

as ivan vur turkovich says

coding gives you an analytic thinking approach

use that to catch your fish vero you stupid hater


conor cassidy
conor cassidy

vero tabares,

if you know how to code you can run the world

with coding the fish will just jump into your hand

Sebastian Stoll
Sebastian Stoll

You hopefully learn what a variable and a function is in math... :P

Vero Tabares
Vero Tabares

If you learn to fish, you'll eat for life. Teach fishing, not coding.

Ivan Von Turkovich
Ivan Von Turkovich

If you grasp at least the fundamentals in coding it gives you analytical thinking approach which can only help anyone in any situation. This gives you a clear view on solving problems also in your daily life.

Gary Riccio
Gary Riccio

Coding is about appreciating small wins

David Jack
David Jack

But only coders get to have jobs and a stable income anymore!!

Jason Ball
Jason Ball

VB version of click bait this one! Touche.

Mihir Sathe
Mihir Sathe

I see his point. However, I still think most people if not everyone should learn how to think logically and imho learning to program is a great way to do it.

dave frogs
dave frogs

hahaha, in the next 20-50 years all the simpler type of coding will be automated. A lot of it is boiler plate, with sprinklings of customization. Anyone can code, in the same sense that anyone can cook (from ratatouille). But few can code well, and fewer still can create the next world changing tech. If you don't learn the fundamentals of software, you get the same thing as people who read but don't understand what they are reading. A nice ego stroke, a glut in the low end, entry level coding jobs and terrible software. Which will eventually be a great reason to automate the low end away.

Robbin Block
Robbin Block

Thank goodness. I was getting worried there for a minute. And BTW, if everyone should learn code, they should learn marketing too.

Andrey Pogodin
Andrey Pogodin

Finally a pice of common sense. Software engineering is not for everybody.

Alex Becker
Alex Becker

Should everyone learn to code? Of course not. Should everyone have the ability to choose to learn to how to code? I think so.

Diego Ferreyra
Diego Ferreyra

I think the basics of programming, algorythm creation provide a great insight into technology, which is ubiquitous right now. That, to me, makes it as important as basic math these days. I do not think everyone should learn how to code, I do think everyone should be taught these basics, much in the same way you are taught trigonometry, you never use it again, but it does make an impact in how you understand things.

Lex Alexander
Lex Alexander

He's right. Only delusional people think everyone should learn to code. You can't equate reading/writing/math. What apps/programs are we creating that the average user needs to write a line of code to use? We hide complexity via interfaces that users interact with. Making everyone learn how to code means we're creating more difficult software, instead of something that is easy and intuitive.

Dean Quiñanola
Dean Quiñanola

There was a time when reading, writing and doing math was only required for a few people. I'm sure there were people who said, "Not everyone should learn to read." It was called the Dark Ages for a good reason.

Reymon Reyes
Reymon Reyes

Just let the people understand how programming is f**king difficult and crazy!

Ryan Alexander
Ryan Alexander

At 27 I was at a place in life where I wanted more. Many years ago I wished I could code, but never gave it a shot. In those days I put off everything that was hard to do. At 27 I was at a time in my life where I finally found myself and what I wanted from life. Maybe some people figure that out earlier, maybe some just jump in to learn how one swims, but I was afraid, shy, self-conscious about my own abilities and never gave myself a chance. At 27 I saw my time different and instead of accepting the life I had earned up to that point; not something you want to write about, I started learning how to code just to see if I could do it. That open minded approach and acceptance to learning was something I totally lacked in school. Within a few hours I knew that writing code, even basic JavaScript mixed in with HTML; was something I wanted to do for years to come. Today I'm close to sending my first binary to Apple for a game I made using SpriteKit. I'm already working with Swift too and if I do say so myself; "Swift must be a distant cousin of JavaScript". I'm about to turn 30 and I started learning at Codecademy.com in Dec 2012. 

Bojan Land
Bojan Land

Linus is full of shit on this one... :) :) :) Learning the basics of coding is an essential life skill!

Eric Chan
Eric Chan

Previous obvious. If I want to travel, do everyone need to learn how to fly a plane?!?!?!? If I want to buy a cell phone, should I learn how to build a cell phone?!?!?!? Absurd. There's this thing called Division of Labor. You should have an idea about how things work because knowing diverse range of knowledge helps one make rational decisions.

Leonardo Chandrawansa
Leonardo Chandrawansa

Not everyone should learn to code. Everyone should understand the importance and the fundamentals, because if everyone learns how to code, the quality of applications and softwares worldwide (generally) will significantly decline as it is already doing so today.

Amurru Zerouk
Amurru Zerouk

neither do I, but It would be great if everybody knows a bit how to code :3

Andy George
Andy George

This man doesn't understand that generation-Y needs to hone as many skills as possible.  This country is shifting to a skills based economy at an increasingly quick rate.  and plus, what if we want to create a website- we should listen to this guy and give up all hope oh learning how to do it again.  but i must say, there are levels to coding which prevent beginners from actually making a career out of it.

Calvin Lai
Calvin Lai

I think there is a big difference between learning to code a bit and having in depth knowledge. I get the impression that some folks are positing the learn 2 code thing as everyone had to be a sw engineer. Not in my opinion. Maybe this analogy isn't exactly alike but I think of it like owning a vehicle you benefit from having some understanding of the mechanics. Maybe even learn some simple maintenance. Learn how to recognize your problems if not be able to fix them. Also to be able to understand anything your mechanic says to you. But do I think we need a million amateur mechanics setting up shop? No of course not.

Lars Tillmann
Lars Tillmann

Both assumptions are bullshit. It's that simple.

Emerson Crux
Emerson Crux

1st of all, programming is not for everyone, like many things don't meet to many people.

Napu Kemppainen
Napu Kemppainen

If that means, that schools would cut basic skills like writing, languages and math, for code writing classes then no. everybody shouldn't learn to code. It's something that you can go and learn on your own.

Filtod Walker
Filtod Walker

Everyone should have the opportunity to learn to code -- though not everyone will want to pursue it further. I first learned to code in summer school between 4th and 5th grade. I think it was actually easier to learn doing it that young. It's almost like picking up a second language which is shown to be easier for kids than adults. If we wait too long, we lose an opportunity to introduce a potentially lucrative skill when it may be easier for students to learn.

Peter James Herz
Peter James Herz

Finally someone smart enough to say something untrendy and worthy of speaking.

Wesley Grimes
Wesley Grimes

Calvin Lai, no society would benefit as a whole more if the population was more comfortable with economics and fractional reserve banking theory. I'm in no way suggesting everyone should become economists by trade.

Calvin Lai
Calvin Lai

To all the people saying 'economics' is a better subject AND at the same time saying we don't need more terrible coders.... Do we really need more terrible economists? ... hmm the rhetoric isn't really jiving anymore right? You probably thought the point was that we need more people with fundamental understanding of finance/economics so that they can navigate our complex financial world properly. If that's the case then having a fundamental computational understanding is likely just as vital when you consider the sheer enormity of our technological environment.

Sean Mosky
Sean Mosky

How can i get my article about iOS Swift Courses (First one on the East Coast) into Venture Beat? Any help!?

Shawlin Kawasaki
Shawlin Kawasaki

The logic is basis. Anyone needs to know the logic, the theory. I believe studying the basis of all it its ok!

Wesley Grimes
Wesley Grimes

I agree. We need quality engineers, not more people who know how to crank out terrible code. The problem with the job market isn't how many resumes get sent in for development roles, it's how few of them are available that are really great at software development. Finding candidates is easy. Most however just aren't up to par. Everyone should learn how to approach problems using logic and think like you must to code though. I would be more interested in seeing everyone learn economics...

Francisco Quintero
Francisco Quintero

 Agreed with Mr. Torvalds. I think building structures is interesting, and bricklayers are very important for a country to progress, however, not every body should learn to build. Teaching is even more important than coding and not every body should learn to teach. It is about vocation not because it is easy—though coding is not that easy as they say.

Jordan Graham
Jordan Graham

Well he also said " I think people should have some way of getting exposure to it, just so that people who find that they enjoy it and have the aptitude know about the possibility."

Bruce Roeser
Bruce Roeser

@dave frogs - the low end IS already automated.  Anyone who's used an IDE with any kind of forms designer knows that!