We need more student Dr Evils to succeed in the Internet of Things

Who could fail to be excited by commanding an army of machines

I hate to give away my age, but when I was young the argument for learning computer programming was that you could ‘organise your record collection’.

There’s something for everyone to mock in that phrase. Firstly, we should never trust anyone who collates enjoyment. Secondly, the fact that I’m old enough to remember vinyl records might amuse younger readers.

Back then the obsessives, who wrote programmes in Basic in order to categorise their singles and albums, should have been stifled. But they were allowed to multiply, like Japanese knotweed, and now they choke the enjoyment from any event, in their desperation to film everything. Holding their smart phones and iPads aloft, they’ll block the view of the cup final, your daughter’s school play and a road accident on the M1. All in the name of capturing content, which they can categorise later.

Nick-Booth-v1One of my regrets is not learning enough languages. Both forms of communication, that is, human and computer. Now that machines are all busily talking to each other, we language laggards could become marginalised.

Over the decades, a variety of governments, training boards and IT companies have attempted to address this. But their half hearted advice, exhorting us all to ‘get into computer programming’ have never really inspired many people. They make the careers sound so dreary. Who wants to become a half-man half desk creature, imprisoned in a windowless office, performing disembodied tasks?

The agencies that market IT training have no empathy for technology careers. Oh yes, they’ll take the money, but I don’t think they understand the brief. Instead of describing the endless creative potential of IT, they sell the promise of a steady job in banking. So millions pass up on the chance to create music, write games and invent things because the educators couldn’t sell the idea.

I don’t know about you, but the words programming, development and coding don’t exactly stiffen the sinews and summon the blood. But we desperately need someone to help us popularise M2M programming.

Maybe we should look to the film industry for inspiration.

I was hoping that the Alan Turing bio-pic, The Imitation Game, would be a good start. What could be more inspiring than a man who won a war by inventing a computer, cracking the enemy code and inspiring an entire industry? Surely that story would incite the nation’s youth to take up IT.

Or so I thought, until I saw the film. The poor man was bullied at school for being a swot. Then, despite saving hundreds of thousands of lives and shortening World War II, he was brutally oppressed by the country he saved. To make matters worse, the script implied he knowingly worked alongside a Russian Spy who was leaking secrets – a story line with no absolutely factual basis. Even in death, the film makers took liberties with Britain’s greatest ever computer pioneer. “If that’s coders get treated,” students will think, “I’m out.”

Personally, I think Dr Evil from the Austin Powers films is a more positive role model for the Internet of Things. Like his predecessor, Dr No (from the Bond films) he has a genius for creating automated killing machines.

OK, so they’re both baddies, but boy, do they know how to command an army of machines? Who could fail to be inspired by a man who creates a radio beam weapon that brings down a space launch? Watching those scenes makes me want to create my own M2M weapon system (I’m planning to automate an army or mirrors, that could all direct sunlight onto a single point, so that I could fry Motorway Accident Rubber Neckers like ants under a magnifying glass).

Progress Software claims its new Rollbase System helps anyone learn how to command machines. I’m intending to review whether this is true. If you read any stories about Fry Ups on the M1, you’ll know the Progress could be onto something.

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