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Let's Face It, We're All Screwed

If you like where you're sitting, you had better stay there!

When I was a kid, I remember someone saying, "If you like where you're sitting, you had better stay there!" They were referring to a prediction that the Earth's population was going to increase to the point that there wouldn't be enough room for everyone to sit, so we'd all have to stay standing forever, or some such nonsense.

As I got older, of course, I came to realize that overpopulation was - or so I thought - strictly going to be the problem of other, less "developed" parts of the world. Since everyone couldn't come here, they'd simply have to rot in whatever god-forsaken holes in the ground they chose to call home. In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, if they were going to die, they should do it speedily and decrease the surplus population.

Lately though, it seems as though the rest of the world's problems are coming closer and closer to home. September 11, of course - like the sacking of Rome: bits of trash from outside the empire's borders finally managing to make it across for a hugely symbolic - if not, thankfully, hugely effective - attack on the empire's heart. Consider the gas prices we see spiraling upwards as more hands compete for slices of an ever-shrinking supply of pie; and, of course, the threat of having all our jobs sent to places where people have the standards of living associated with gross overpopulation, i.e., "will code for food."

It was against this backdrop that I recently received the book My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book) in the mail. It is written by Chad Fowler, is part of the Pragmatic Programmers series, is subtitled "52 Ways To Save Your Job," and is a must-read for anyone interested in safeguarding his or her career against the pervasive influence of our national economic decline.

One of the recurring themes of the book is that the job of software developer is rapidly changing in the West to be more of a management occupation. Those of you who regularly read this magazine may recall that I likened this process (in DNDJ January, 2005) to what has happened to the nursing profession over the last couple of decades. In the same way that hospitals employee fewer nurses and more low-cost "nurses aides" - which the nurses are expected to manage - in the continuing battle to lower healthcare costs, so too will western software companies continue to ship jobs overseas.

The good news, of course, is that for every three developers who are half way around the world, there will still need to be one developer here at home to manage the interface between software and business needs. Almost every domestic survey still indicates that good local developers are in high demand, so it could just be that the only thing we are losing in the process of globalization is the excess baggage that our industry picked up during the Roaring 90s.

On the other hand, maybe it is the end of life as we know it.

More Stories By Derek Ferguson

Derek Ferguson, founding editor and editor-in-chief of .Net Developer's Journal, is a noted technology expert and former Microsoft MVP.

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Most Recent Comments
WarenD Stevens 02/14/06 08:24:21 PM EST

Get a grip on some perspective. No one is screwed.

Way back when, 95% of people were farmers. And people worried what they would do when the machines took over. Same when the textile mills were automated in the industrial revolution (see: ludites). Same for when "cheap labour" took jobs to Mexico. Same for when robots came into factories.

1) Some jobs leave (usually the worst ones)
2) People invent something else to do (usually better)
3) Repeat for all of economic history

stephen rylander 02/14/06 03:11:39 PM EST

Oh man. First last weeks dotnetrocks guest was all for outsourcing his work to India, now it's here Sys-Con. I'm thinking about becoming a chef.

SYS-CON Brazil News Desk 02/09/06 09:53:15 AM EST

When I was a kid, I remember someone saying, 'If you like where you're sitting, you had better stay there!' They were referring to a prediction that the Earth's population was going to increase to the point that there wouldn't be enough room for everyone to sit, so we'd all have to stay standing forever, or some such nonsense.