It is that very special time of year… Yes, Valentine’s Day is here and people across the world are thinking and talking about love. Taking that as a cue, I thought it would be a good time to write on what I love about technology. While I probably won’t be sending my computer a valentine per se, believe it or not, there is actually quite a bit to like!
If you like change, then you have to love technology. Looking back over my lifetime, it is amazing to see the pace of change. Indeed, the pace only seems to be getting faster. Some technologies that were a staple of my youth (like video cassettes) are basically gone out of existence. In its place, whole new products that were just a dream to science fiction writers a few years before have come into being. Everything from HD TVs to cell phones, from Facebook to Google were just a dream not that long ago. Indeed, the desktop computer itself is an invention of my lifetime.
We in technology have a name for the basis of all this rapid change. It is called Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is named after Gordon E. Moore, the co-founder of microchip manufacturer, Intel. In a paper he wrote in 1965, Moore noted that the number of transistors in integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. Over the last half century, he has turned out to be exactly right. From that time until this, what we can do at the very basic core of technology has increased exponentially. Indeed, it is directly because we can fit more and more tiny transistors onto microchips that everything you see today has now become possible. The more tiny we can go, the bigger things we can do. It may sound ironic, but it is absolutely true.
To put this into sharp context, computers that used to fill rooms can now fit in your smartphone… multiple times over. To me, that is just absolutely amazing. I remember just how primitive the graphics were on my first video game system, the Atari 2600. Yet, look what we can do today! When Steve Jobs first demonstrated the iPhone, I was literally stunned by what I was seeing on the screen. It almost looked like magic, but, in fact, it was simply what had become possible all because of Moore’s Law.
While some have said that our capability to double the number of transistors on microchips will soon come to an end, this prediction has yet to materialize despite being predicted multiple times. That said, it is quite true that we will face the ultimate limits of physics. It is hard to imagine transistors smaller than the size of an atom. Of course, as a kid, it was hard to imagine all we have accomplished today despite a vivid imagination. Thus, future breakthroughs could continue Moore’s Law indefinitely.
So, what does all this have to do with IT in an educational setting? Frankly, I would say everything.
It means that what we do today will not be what we do tomorrow. It means those of us who work in the field of IT have to expect disruptive technologies to come along. When they do, we need to help our institutions understand the context, to discern between what might be a fad and what might be truly transformative. While this sometimes might feel like we are walking on quicksand, I find the experience exhilarating. We are always having to learn new things and approach matters in different ways. It makes for a job that is never boring.
Yet, despite all the new technologies and the change that comes with it, there is actually a constant. This constant is another aspect of what I do that I love so much. Despite the never ending change, there is a highly developed methodology or pathway in which to look at and implement new things. It is this methodology that has become the core of what we call MIS (Management in Information Sciences) that now guides everything that we do. In this way, we can bring a little control to what can sometimes admittedly be chaotic change.
What exactly is MIS? That is a blog for another day.
In short, I love what I do. There is no other way to put it. I love all the new technologies and the opportunities and, yes, challenges that come with it. However, I also love the fact that there is a way to manage all this correctly. It isn’t just chaos. It is, at least, controlled chaos. How much more fun could a person have?
So, in the end, maybe it isn’t such a crazy idea to send my computer a valentine.