Doctors have long been the most revered members of society. The medical profession is very noble in its aims to cure and ease suffering. Without the medical arts we as humans would be far worse off. We hold doctors up on high because of their abilities to see the human body in ways the average person does not. But what is it that doctors really do? They heal people, the cure disease, they enable longer life. All true, but in short they are fixers. They specialize in debugging the human body. So why should software engineers matter more to society? Computers and technology have been a boon to humanity for many obvious reasons, but the software engineers are more than just fixers, they are creators. They have created applications and tools that have become so ubiquitous that we don’t just take them for granted, we don’t even notice them anymore.

Picture the scene in Saving Private Ryan with a room full of women in the typing pool tapping out death notifications. The skill required then was immense. Typos were very costly and speed was of utmost importance. Fast forward to today (or even 20 years ago) and the word processor. Here is an application, created by software engineers, that brought typing skills to the masses. No longer did you need to futz with ribbons and jammed keys and correction fluid. Even the need for good spelling and proper grammar has been lifted. Some may say this dumbed us down a bit, but I stand on the side of the argument that says it has freed us to do something else with a time and mental ability. Writing a blog for instance. Sure without doctors I may contract some disease and suffer and lose time and mental ability, but the doctor is only preserving those two, not adding capacity. Software Engineers have created something that in turn increases everyone’s potential to create something else.

Look at the education required of a doctor. College, medical school, internship, residency.  A great deal of education is invested in these folks because we as a society justifiably place a high premium on human life. Yet a software engineer does not even require a degree to practice in a field that respects and adds immense potential to the value of life. The irony is that the doctor trains that long to avoid making one mistake that could cost one life, to be the best fixers possible. Yet some of the most helpful tools out there have come from software engineers who don’t even have a degree.

The point of this post is not about more respect for software engineers, but to emphasize the contribution they make to us all. Doctors keep the machine running, fix things when they break and implement maintenance programs. Software engineers do all this and more, they enable the machine to do new things, things it didn’t have time to contemplate before. Which do you think is the greater contribution to society?