My Chronicle column looks at how software is changing our lives.
Software Revolution Enters Our Livelihood, The Chronicle, 8 July 2014
Nestled in the heart of Braddon, between car dealerships and funky cafes, is one of Australia’s largest computer game design companies. Employing nearly 50 people, 2K Australia make games such as BioShock and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
To visit 2K’s offices is to be reminded of how complex computer games have become. Today’s game designers include people who previously worked as architects, artists and artificial intelligence programmers. As he showed me around the office, CEO Tony Lawrence talked about how they’d just had a team of actors in to record the voices for their latest game.
Two-thirds of us play video games, with the best games not only challenging our dexterity, but also absorbing us in epic narratives, proposing moral challenges and generating genuine emotional responses. And it’s encouraging that writing games is also something Australia can do well. Thirty years ago, there were 200,000 typists and virtually no computer programmers – today, Australia has are 55,000 typists and 80,500 programmers.
As Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen has pointed out, software is revolutionising the economy. Books and music now arrive in a stream of bits down a copper line (of, if you’re lucky, a fibre one). Photography is software-powered, as are most advertisements for jobs and house sales. Software sits at the heart of modern cars, from safety systems to navigation aids.
On the battlefield, software systems are making our soldiers safer and more effective. On farms, better satellite data is helping farmers choose what, when and where to plant. The software-driven shakeup of health and education, Andreessen argues, is only just beginning. From a blood glucose monitor that connects to your smartphone to the lessons available free at www.khanacademy.org, software is the new new thing.
Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser, and his website is www.andrewleigh.com.