Robots Weld Cars. Why Not Write Code?
Everything gets automated eventually. At first, businesses strive for efficiency in workers, and then when the work becomes too boring and repetitive, they go all the way to having a machine of some sort do it. But that could never happen to writing software code, could it? Charles Simonyi thinks it could, and his company Intentional Software is trying to do just that with its Domain Workbench.
Simonyi's five-year-old startup, Intentional Software, is making
software so smart that you can simply tell it what you want to do. Lay
down a few basic parameters, and it will write its own code. No
programming skills are necessary.
"Experts [in other fields] can be much more innovative and
responsive to their business, and see the resulting software
immediately," says Simonyi, speaking from the deck of his yacht, one of
the world's largest.
Humans, arguably, have done a pretty lousy
job of writing code. Derailed software projects have shamed plenty of
large companies. (See "When Bugs Attack," right.) The National
Institute of Standards and Technology says such bugs cost the U.S.
economy nearly $60 billion each year.
"The nature of
programming is that you make mistakes," says Jonathan Edwards, a
research fellow at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence
Lab. "No one ever gets it right, and people have concluded this is as
good as it's going to get."
Sounds like a version of FrontPage on steroids to me. Since Simonyi made some of that yacht money at Microsoft, that's not surprising. Dedicated coders have always laughed when reading source code from cut and paste software programs. But end users and enterprise project managers couldn't care less about how elegant it looks when you press "view source." And if you're replaced by a bot, coders will finally have an answer to the question: "What does it matter if I learn how to spell, anyway?"