Learn how to code or be left behind

Updated: 2013-03-06 17:34

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)

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A recent article in Mashable.com intrigued me. Apparently, increasingly young kids are learning elementary programming languages such as C# and Visual Basic, and developing mobile games.

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Meanwhile, the antivirus company, AVG, reports they are also writing malware that can steal data and virtual currency, and using their newly acquired skills to hack accounts and wreak havoc on social media and gaming sites. One 11-year-old Canadian boy was revealed as a hacker only because he naively forwarded his e-mail and password. Cute or what?

Learn how to code or be left behind

Ending on an encore 

Learn how to code or be left behind

 Dancing their way to higher education

Clearly, Pandora's box has been opened up like a present on Christmas day and the kids are having fun. It's all very well for governments and companies to get hacked off about miscreants, but it should also be appreciated that knowledge is neutral. It can always be used for good or for ill.

According to the book I'm reading at the moment, Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, by Jon Erickson, hacking is just "creative problem solving finding an unconventional solution to a difficult problem or exploiting holes in sloppy programming".

And though Facebook is among the US companies crying foul over alleged Chinese online incursions, its founder Mark Zuckerberg started off as a hacker and still advocates the "Hacker Way" - playing around with codes, looking under the hoods of systems, and freedom. What comes round, goes around.

So, yesterday's villain is today's hero, celebrated in films like The Social Network, Skyfall and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm not saying I'm intent on my girls being part of the cyber rat pack, and it is irritating when they crack the password on my phone, but I certainly want them to be on a level playing field and conversant with what is a universal language. The alternative is ignorance.

Contact the writer at julesquartly@chinadaily.com.cn.

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