Machine learning and will robots take control?
“Some day software will write itself and we won’t need programmers.” This was said by my freshman computer science teacher to us as computer science students in 1986.
Here we are in 2017 and software is still not writing itself or is it?
If you are a parent like me, I have no doubt you think about the career your child will pursue. Or you are in a career seeing salaries cut or positions being eliminated. So, right now as I type this, I have a daughter in graduate school and two in high school. My wife is a physician assistant and I teach technology courses at a university while trying to keep up to date consulting. We work hard like many families. I share this because although it sound like a normal life, we are all in a state of change. It is definitely not a Norman Rockwell painting kind of life. Health care is changing, higher education is changing, and we are preparing kids to work in jobs that don’t exist yet.
What are those jobs?
What should they study?
Will they have ‘careers’?
No one has a definitive answer for those questions. I would caution those who say becoming a lawyer is a safe bet or becoming a doctor is the way to go and cannot be impacted by technological change. Both are being disrupted just like every other profession with the advancement of what we call machine learning. Machine learning falls under the discipline of computer science and is where software programs can learn without someone rewriting the code. Whuuut?
Yes…the machine is learning.
(note: this link here is my Amazon affiliate link)
In Thomas Friedman’s book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration.” he talks about this being part of a shift. It is a shift away from what we call the traditional professions pushed by technology and automation. Woah….this sounds like the blockbuster movie series, The Terminator, featuring Arnold Swartzenegger. But remember that is Hollywood. I told this to a group of high school sophomores today. Hollywood is in the movie business. They need you to buy tickets to movies so they tell a great story. No one wants to buy tickets to see happy, shiney people, living a peaceful life. They like a story with apocalyptic views (aka see the success of The Walking Dead TMC series). I cannot explain why this is part of our psyche but I don’t buy into that narrative. Robots may take jobs away and we may see more automation but what we have seen over the course of the industrial and information ages is that other jobs get created as others are removed. Friedman also cites various examples of people solving problems using current technologies and becoming quite successful. Success is relative, of course.
The takeaway is this…..
Are our kids getting the right skills to think this way? (que the Superman theme music) That is where GetMeCoding.com comes into play. I know this website is not the only game in town to get people introduced to coding. It is no different than a mall with 4 different shoe stores. A shoe is a shoe….right?? No. But I digress… It goes further. In an interesting Wired Magazine article, “Worried About Robots Taking Your Job? Learn Spreadsheets”, it begins to highlight just this.
This problem solving cannot be done by robots, drones, or terminators. Well, not at first. Our next generation of thinkers and doers will see programs writing itself but these systems won’t be able to identify the problem and create the solution. That is where we still have a hand and will for quite some time. True, technology is evolving more rapidly than ever and adapting will pose challenges to those who are not prepared. You and your child can be. If you go out and sign up at GetMeCoding.com and do the tutorials you will begin to open the door to understanding this tech space called coding. It will then grow your confidence to pursue other tools. As the Wired article notes, check out spreadsheets. They don’t just mean spreadsheets though. They also mean the digital skills. Get them and sharpen them. Put them in front of your kids now and while you are at it….you need to do it. Consider this blog post the flag waving at you and heading your way.
As I tell all my students, do not fear change. Fear holds us back from being great. Instead, learn to roll with it and get ready for a great ride. If the Terminator were here you can destroy him but only by educating yourself.