“If you aren’t willing to adapt, you will die. Evolution isn’t only for species. It applies to whole industries and even individual careers. Legacy, disaggregated infrastructure is becoming less sustainable. IT is under assault from every direction.” – Scott D. Lowe
Recent political events related to the development of jobs have sparked me to think about the role that technology will play in the future of job markets. I am concerned that many individuals do not understand what is currently transpiring in information technology, and how it will impact every industry from healthcare to energy to manufacturing and transportation.
In today’s blog post, I will review step changes that have led to the present state of technology, and I will then challenge the reader to consider the future of technology, and what changes should be conducted in higher education to better prepare the future global workforce.
First let’s answer the following question: what causative agents have affected the changing landscape of technology? For me, I think about the period of time that I became involved in IT. At that time, there were no computer science degrees, it dates me, I know. In my post doctorate program in biochemistry, I was working on an EPA grant where my skills led me to be the programmer for our research initiatives.
I purchased an IBM 5150 PC, an Intel 8088 based system, one of the first delivered in the area. This machine led to a series of events that caused me to shift from biochemistry into technology. When I think about the IBM 5150, and all of the step changes that accompanied it, I am quite amazed. It was the beginning of a movement from centralization and mainframe to distributed computing.
Another major step change occurred at Xerox PARC in the Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs viewed the graphical user interface that Xerox developed, and built it into the Macintosh computer. This evolution began a revolution in the worlds of business and personal computing.
All of these step changes would not have been possible without Gordon Moore and Intel’s chip design. Its lithographic techniques led to the miniaturization of components, and the increase of components on its chips. Moore plotted data on the number of components in chips from 1959 to 1975, it was a straight line. His forecast was that these components (i.e. transistors, resistors, and capacitors) would grow from 2^6 to 2^16 during a ten-year period. This was not a physical or natural law, but merely an observation. Later this year, Intel will release 10 nm chip technology based upon new lithographic techniques (EUV).
With the advent of the iPhone, Apple has created another step change that has significantly altered how the world interacts with technology. Technology has become personalized and consumer-driven.
Most readers of this post will probably consider themselves familiar with the current technology landscape in regards to higher education. As you can imagine, my primary concern in information technology is higher education; however, I’d like to take a look at outside industries, and how they are impacted by the evolution and revolution of technology to determine what changes are necessary in higher education in order to better prepare the future workforce.
There are many technology step changes within the transportation industry at this very moment that will cause significant changes to how we get around in the very near future. One example being the invention and implementation of autonomous vehicles.
Car manufacturers are currently testing vehicles on the streets of our busiest cities, demonstrating that these vehicles, with no drivers, are able to taxi individuals from one destination to another. In Europe, autonomous luxury cars and even autonomous tractor trailers are being tested on the Autobahn.
Boeing has recently announced that it will test autonomous air vehicles that will travel above our present roadways, thus opening up an additional series of lanes. Rolls Royce has developed ghost ships that will travel seas without a crew.
Rio Tinto, one the world’s largest mining operations, is moving toward fully autonomous vehicles in the open pit mines. The 320-ton Haulpaks, and their trains, are without personnel. Rio Tinto has spent $350 million on AI and software development related to this project, and hundreds of individuals have been displaced from their jobs.
When considering technology advancements in manufacturing, you need to look no further than the Mercedes plant located just northeast of Tuscaloosa. If you have the opportunity to tour the facility, you will notice one thing: very few people. The majority of the operation is automated with large robots that move very quickly. Frankly the robots remind me of the cylons in Battlestar Galactica. This manufacturing plant is an indication of our future. Jobs are no longer plentiful in manufacturing.
All of the observations listed above are not of the future, yet they are the present. My concern is the chasm that will widen between those who have, and those who have not. Those outside of technology could be left useless in our workforce. As members of the higher education community, we must strive in continuously evolving education to meet and exceed the growing technology demands impacting the global workforce.