STEM for Elites?

Alec Ross tells us that the way the pandemic has accelerated adoption of automation in workplaces means that “computer science education should not be exclusive to engineers and elites.”

We’d say it should never have been exclusive to engineers and elites, but Ross, author of The Industries of the Future and The Raging 2020s: Companies, Countries, People — and The Fight for Our Future, wants to put computer science on the same educational footing as reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.

The old joke

The old joke says that the factory of the future will employ one man and a dog. The dog will be there to make sure the man doesn’t touch the machines. The man will be there to feed the dog.

We’re closer to that vision than ever before. Nissan and Renault are planning factories with minimal human staff. They won’t be “lights out” factories; in fact, they have special intense lighting for the sake of the computer’s cameras. Fanuc says they have lights-out factories, and they don’t turn on the heat or the air conditioning, either. But human-optional factories are largely still a prediction rather than a reality.

That doesn’t mean the machines aren’t gaining in importance.

Ross continues, “[M]ore and more often, when you go to work either you are telling a machine what to do or a machine is telling you what to do. We need to make sure that Americans are the masters of the technology and not its slaves.”

Not just work

Ross sees this phenomenon going beyond work. “In the same way that towns died off in the 19th century if they didn’t have a train station, towns are dying off today because they are not on the broadband highway,” he points out. “Businesses just won’t locate in a place with slow, expensive internet connections.”

They also may be unwilling to locate in towns without a tech-savvy workforce. Bringing computer science to the masses may be an economic necessity.

Meanwhile, when you need support or service for your Rexroth motion control systems, we should be your first call. Reach us at (479) 422-0390.

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