Code for Impact, or Code for Clicks

June 29, 2014

Sometimes the best way to write a blog post is to let others do the work for you. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite articles from Bloomberg Businessweek. The article references Jeff Hammerbacher, a recent Harvard graduate and accomplished math whiz. Here are some excerpts:

Hammerbacher looked around Silicon Valley at companies like his own, Google (GOOG), and Twitter, and saw his peers wasting their talents. "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads," he says. "That sucks."

"If instead of pointing their incredible infrastructure at making people click on ads," he likes to ask, "they pointed it at great unsolved problems in science, how would the world be different today?"

"My fear is that Silicon Valley has become more like Hollywood," says Glenn Kelman, chief executive officer of online real estate brokerage Redfin, who has been a software executive for 20 years. "An entertainment-oriented, hit-driven business that doesn't fundamentally increase American competitiveness."

There are a lot of great research labs, government agencies, non-profits and companies like Kitware who are actively addressing the great unsolved problems in science, and in society at large. For example, our company is positively impacting health care, creating software that runs on some of the largest supercomputers in the world, supporting national security, providing solutions to the overwhelming flood of Big Data, and building some of the highest-quality scientific software systems in the world.

And like many in the scientific community, we do it in the open. Unlike some of our advertising-centric friends, who often “disappear” employees behind closed doors in the name of proprietary secrecy, our open systems enable personal recognition and international collaboration. I don’t know about you but I enjoy being challenged by people smarter than me, who motivate me to learn and grow. Plus being recognized as a contributor to an international community is an absolute blast.

So do you really want to code for clicks? Or to make a bigger impact in the world.


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