Computer software has had a defining impact on the world. As a software engineer, I feel great personal and professional satisfaction in producing tools that make the world a better place.
Imagine if every software program ceased to function. This would be the result:
- Banks and hospitals would grind to a halt
- Cars, trains, and planes would be inoperable
- Telecommunications (aside from the basic transistor radio) would go silent
- Household appliances like microwaves and water heaters would be useless
- Desktop computers, laptops, tablets, TV, game consoles, smartphones wouldn’t operate
You get the picture—everything we take for granted depends on software or firmware coded onto electronic microcontrollers. These devices run software that make our lives easier, entertain us, inform us, and keep us connected. It’s because of software that a college student can easily harvest the world for information for a research paper. It’s also because of software—like an electronic health record (EHR)—that an unconscious patient’s health information can be sent instantaneously from his or her primary care physician to an emergency room.
While software does all of these great things today, its potential for the future is even more amazing. Artificial intelligence researchers are dreaming up and creating software capable of things that were at one time restricted to the realm of human thought—software that composes music, holds intelligent conversations, predicts sensitive fluctuations in big market data, drives robots on other planets, and makes medical diagnoses. Last year, a very bright student from Florida brought the healthcare and artificial intelligence fields together to create software that can predict malignant breast cancer with 99% accuracy using a machine-learning technique called Neural Networks.
Software has been and will continue to be one of the most profoundly, world changing advents of modern society. We simply cannot function without it.
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