Does your code have a heart?
I live in a city that is about to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. People are shut in their flats and the health care system is already loaded over its maximum capacity.
It comes to me more acutely than ever before how ridiculously privileged I am as a programmer. My life almost hasn’t changed yet. I work and study exactly the same way I did before, remotely. All the while millions of people around me lose their jobs, doctors and nurses work endless hours in enormous stress, and many others have to risk their health to provide citizens (including me) their basic needs.
A big part of this privilege comes from the software itself: online working and collaboration tools, websites, delivery apps. Software is very versatile: almost all modern systems and products include or entirely rely upon software.
I feel that we, programmers, have a responsibility to apply this great freedom and power to pursue goals not smaller than the commitments that people around us make today.
What do I want from life? What can I do to make myself happy? — are not the proper questions. The real question is, What is life asking of me? … Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which life constantly sets for each individual.
Stephen Covey suggested an exercise that I found very instructive for myself: visualize your retirement. What contributions do you want to have made, in accordance to your deepest values? Involve as many emotions, feelings, and senses as you can. Then, think about this as if you have only three years to live.