I’ve believed for a long time that the secret to ensuring technology is ultimately a force for good in society, is to democratize it and ensure the many can be productive with it, not just the few.
As software increasingly becomes part of almost every work and real-world process, it is crucial that larger and larger parts of the labor force can be productive with AI, robotics, analytics, data analysis and the myriad of other tools that now exist. Without this democratization, a small pool of people with the right skills will end up reaping almost all the benefits and most others will end up as consumers of the results.
When I first wrote the article linked above five years ago, APIs already covered a wide array of products and services, but the means for non-specialists to easily tie the outputs of these systems together to be productive were still very weak.
There has been steady progress since, with integration services such as IFTTT and Zapier all gaining ground. Companies such as Red Hat (who I work for) have also added much friendlier interfaces to their integration tools.
I was motivated to write this update though after looking at Microsoft’s efforts on the PowerPlatform they announced earlier this year (see here on Quartz*) and here from the announcements in May. The power platform and the ecosystem it sits on top of is really one of the first successful efforts to truly bring a wide range of powerful tools together. It’s also refreshing to see the objective of empowering non-specialists being so clear and present in Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s message:
“Sixty percent of the jobs in technology now are outside of what is considered the tech industry,” he said, citing a statistic uncovered by LinkedIn, which Microsoft also owns. “And that’s only going to grow.”Satya Nadella
Don’t get me wrong: we need highly skilled developers as well (and they should be richly rewarded). It’s just far better to empower those who already work in a diverse range of industries to be more productive than to try to retrain them all into engineers or to try to use engineers to automate what they already do well.
(* and credit to quartz also for the text for the headline!)