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Education Matters: Technology, and our saving grace

April 07, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I saw one of those movies the other day that give us one of those bleak accounts of life in some distant future.

There was hopelessness everywhere — lives were lived mechanically against the background of a sterile and colorless, often violent, world. People were vacant, pressed into painful uniformity and seemingly without personality.


It brought to mind many conversations I’ve had with classes over the years about how my kids envision their futures. One of the biggest question marks that comes up is the rapid pace of technology, and just how adjustable my students will be as the rate of change continues to accelerate.

How can they possibly compete with machines that no longer just duplicate human effort, but far surpass it?

How will they secure jobs when their employers are enticed by the services of a laborer that can work continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, flawlessly without need of breaks or lunch hours or weekends or paid vacations or salary of any kind? This worker would never join a union, never need health benefits or a pension plan — in other words, every employer’s dream.

Who will hire humans in the future when robots and automation are increasingly employed not just in manufacturing, but in service industries?

We may be getting a glimpse of the future in supermarkets and large retail outlets that have installed automated check-out facilities. Already these stores seem to be encouraging patrons to use this method of payment, eliminating cashiers altogether.

Over the years, my kids and I have wondered which occupations in the future will be exempt from this trend and what services that we humans render to each other are indispensably human. It’s interesting that teaching is most often put into this category, as my students cannot fathom how their education could someday be dispensed by anything other than a human being.

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