Linda Liukas: Getting Closer to Computers

People need to reconnect with technology to best take advantage of the opportunities it offers, according to author and programmer Linda Liukas.

Liukas runs Rails Girls, a website that teaches young women how to better understand computers and how to program. The 30-year-old Finn is also the author of Hello Ruby, a children’s book about a little girl’s adventures inside a computer that was in part financed by a successful Kickstarter campaign that generated $380,000.

Based on her experience educating young women and work as a programmer, Liukas told attendees at the Nordic Business Forum in Stockholm that a disconnect has emerged as technology becomes more sophisticated, making it paramount that people rediscover their connection with computers to make better use of them.

“In the past, a computer could fit into this room,” said Liukas during her talk, which was called “Create the Future – Creativity as a Roadmap for the Future.” “Today we can jam 300 million transistors into the pinpoint of a pen.”

Learning to conceptualize and think creatively about those computers is the focus of much of Liukas’s work.

“We don’t know how to play with computers anymore,” said Liukas. “We don’t know how to twist or turn or fix them or break them anymore,” she said. “The only way to make these things more understandable is to really learn how computers work from a totally new perspective by teaching kids to see the computer as the bicycle of the mind.”

According to Liukas, this is important not only because we are moving toward a world where “every single problem will be a computer problem” and “every company will be a technology company” but because computers can, in fact, help people to better understand and intuit their own experiences. “The very essence of our humanity is encoded into these very tiny bits of information,” she said.

By getting closer to computers, Liukas argued that people can develop a “logical attitude toward problems,” where programmers understand that big problems are merely the combination of multiple smaller, solvable ones. People will also better grasp the powers of the technology at hand, as well as the possibilities to use it. They will also expand their vocabulary by “getting to know the machine again” in Liukas’s words.

“The programmer, much like the poet, creates out of nothing,” said Liukas. “Programmers create universes where they decide the vocabulary and the rules and the grammar,” she said. “They create it with the pure power of logic.”

Liukas is no stranger to the Nordic Business Forum audience. In 2014, she was named as one of Nordic Business Reports’ 30 under 30, a list of the greatest young leaders in Northern Europe.

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