Why college professors should fear information technology: commentary

Why college professors should fear information technology: commentary

Summary: Moore's Law versus the higher education system.

TOPICS: Hardware, Banking

Quote of the week:

"The self-made technology billionaire Peter Thiel, who wrote a book attacking political correctness at Stanford... held a competition to find 20 of the smartest, hardest-working and most accomplished people under age 20 and is paying them to “stop out of school.”... Computing technology poses an even greater threat to colleges than Thiel does. Computing power is driven by the well-established trend known as Moore's law, an implication of which is that the amount of computing power you can buy per dollar approximately doubles every year. Let's say you're 40 years old and are wondering what kind of artificial intelligence programs you'll be competing with in 20 years. When deciding this, take into account that 20 years from now computers will likely be around a million times more powerful than they are today. Over the long run you don't want to go up against Moore's law, yet I fear that this is my profession’s fate."

- James D. Miller, associate professor of economics at Smith College, in an essay titled "Get Out While You Can."

Observation: Many professions -- including programmers and developers -- have been upended by the march of information technology, which opens up skillsets to global competition and commodity pricing. Of course, new technology also creates new opportunities. Driven by IT, creative destruction is changing the economics of education - opening up new possibilities in the delivery of training and education, but is also shaking up the established order.

Topics: Hardware, Banking

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  • 20 out of how many million?

    Sure, you have the Steve Jobs and Peter Thiel's of the world that have the passion, drive, insight and innate ability to thrive even without formal training. But we are talking about a very tiny majority of people.

    The vast majority of people still require professional training and schooling for success. This is true in China, India, the UK and the US.
  • It could be the future except...

    the reality is that the higher learning organizations are (like the medical field), very savvy political lobbyist's. They will influence congress to pass laws to 'protect the integrity of American education' just like the medical field has influenced laws to prevent efficient medical practice.
  • Doubt it

    Worst it's likely to do is to focus teachers more on training (what they should be doing anyway) and less on imparting information.

    If availability of information was going to put universities out of business, public libraries would have done it a century ago.
    John L. Ries