I saw someone asking whether programmers will cure cancer.

Software engineers are methodical people looking for challenging problems where they can improve the situation through building systems, processes and tools, and so software is finding its way into improving everything.

They’ll help directly cure cancer through improved tools for prediction, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as indirect things like programming the medical devices, programming the factory production lines to create the medical devices, programming the operating system, IDE, and compliers the above programmers use, as well as hospital logistics and supplies management software including hospital robotics. Some hospitals have barcode systems to ensure you can’t get the wrong medication, and to notice if your medication was missed. It’s all controlled by software that someone somewhere has written.

I work on battery chargers. Probably the hospital forklifts, floor cleaners, or robots will use one, and the team I’m on will be contributing a little bit. Colleagues of mine work on power systems for medical devices. A past colleague worked on a system to help scientists share patient medical information securely so they could do research. One software expert I met recently worked on software for MRI machines to improve the images they captured.

Encourage your kids to realise mathematical/logical thinking is valuable and should be nurtured.

Encourage them to realise computers are tools that can be learnt and understood and not something to be intimidated by.

Ignite curiosity to solve problems.

Knowing how the world has already changed in your lifetime, explain how the future will be totally different in spectacular unimaginable ways. Excite them to build that future.

Inspire them to understand how much is possible when people work together.

There’s a reason so many of the world’s richest people were software engineers originally, even if they don’t write code now. They realise they can create the things that they today only dream of.

Here’s some dreams I’ve had of what the future could be:

– a personal healthcare tracker that plays the 20 questions guessing game with you every so often, and identifies what’s wrong better than any human genius doctor ever could. One team of 150 people have been working for 7 years on this, and they’re getting near the level they’re as good as a doctor. Give it 10-20 years and it’ll be basically free and instant for the best diagnosis possible without tests, and it’ll recommend the most appropriate tests if they are needed (maybe even booking them for you).

– education apps free for the entire planet that know (1) what you already know (and when you learnt it so maybe it’s forgotten) and (2) how you learn and (3) can explain things to you at your speed. People are building this.

– much cheaper energy, enabled by software simulation tools, which enables a massive drop in the cost of food production, goods production, recycling, etc. This will come.

Don’t tell your kids to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Inspire them to system builders who care about people – their health, their education, and their well-being.

We’ll value people who care for us in the ways machines can’t. The people who give us purpose, and understand the deepest needs of our souls. The people who can understand our emotions, and care about us enough to lift us up. But of those people, the ones who will have the best impact will be those who collaborate with others and use technology to its best and highest end.

Many programmers are hardworking, resourceful, and especially purposeful.

They are helping cure cancer, and they’re changing the world.

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