A thought exercise for programmers

In the not so recent “outsourcing” episode of 30 days the American whose job has been outsourced to India goes there and comes to a number of interesting realizations including this:

“Knowing that probably like 16 people are surviving off of my one job … it’s almost like charitable at that point. They need the job way more than I do.”

Your thought exercise for the day is to answer this question: What can you do as a developer to justify yourself as being more valuable than sixteen Indians?

Restrictions: If you are going to participate in this thought exercise you can’t just blow it off by suggesting that outsourced code sucks. I have seen many examples and yes, it generally does, but there are also many good examples of outsourced code. Either way, can you honestly say that yours is so much better that you should keep your job when the alternative is, in essence, to let sixteen other people benefit from the work assigned to you? This is not a question you can get out of on technicalities like pointing out that they could get other jobs or that the economics aren’t actually that cut and dry. It is a question of morality and value.

I think there are less than 100 coders out there whose contributions can pass this test. I don’t think I am one of them…yet. You probably aren’t either. So what can we do as coders that can benefit others so much that it would be morally better for us to keep our jobs than giving them to sixteen others? The two biggest things that come to my mind are teaching and becoming a major contributor to a software project that significantly benefits thousands of people.