"Hello Dave, May I Park Your Car?" - spoken in the voice of Hal, the computer, from 2001

The Dim Bulb

The Occasional Musings of an Educator

by Michael Keany

The brain is capable of performing 10 quadrillion (that’s 10 to the 16th) “calculations,” or synaptic events, per second using only about 15 watts of power. At this rate, a computer as powerful as the human brain would require 1 gigawatt of power. Maybe a dim bulb isn't really as dim as it seems.

The photo at the left is the Livermore Centennial bulb, the world's longest burning electric bulb. 

Number 3

March 4, 2011


Yesterday, I had a presentation to do in New York City.  Concerned, as always, about finding a parking spot, I allowed myself some time and found a parking garage on 24th Street, around the corner from my destination.  Then, things got interesting fast!


There was no attendant.  No one to greet me.  There was a machine, much like an ATM, blinking at me.  I approached.  Reading the instructions, I inserted my credit card.  The single garage door behind me closed, capturing my car.  Then, much to my amazement, a short video explained that no human would touch my car.  The video went on to explain that lasers would measure my car, photograph it, and check to make sure I had left and that there were no pets or close relatives remaining.  I then watched as a series of automated fork lift devices lifted my car and moved it into the parking garage and, like someone solving a Rubik's Cube, deposited it in an appropriate space.


Marvels of marvels,  when I returned, I reinserted my credit card, and the process was reversed but my car was now pointed toward the street so I could just drive out.  I think I exclaimed "Cool," which seemed to bother this young woman walking by.


On my ride home I reflected on many things.  What a truly wonderful world we live in.  Then, it hit me.  How many jobs were lost there, in that parking garage?  Low paying jobs to be sure, but jobs lost; never to return.  Maybe the kid who needed money for college, or the father working a second job to make ends meet, or maybe the person with just a high school diploma; all now without a job.  Look at Home Depot, where checkout cashiers are a rarity now since you check yourself out.  The Post Office which allows you to do so many transactions on line.  Amazon is booming, Borders is closing.  What does it all mean?  If your job requires you to do a series of repetitive tasks, you will not have a job.


It means that education, advanced specialized education, is more important than ever before.  A high school diploma, once the end goal, is now just the starting point.  What will happen years from now when so many young people are unemployed, even when they were promised that a high school diploma would be the ticket to a good life? 


Jobs are disappearing overseas.  Jobs are disappearing in local malls.  Jobs are disappearing on 24th Street.


Do our kids understand that?  Do we tell them?  Are we giving them the wrong message?  Are we giving them the wrong education?


The person who is making money these days is the person who invented the self-parking garage.  What skills did you need to learn to do that?  Those are the skills I want my grandchildren to have.


"Hello, Dave, may I perform your heart surgery now?"



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Comment by Joseph C. Dragone on March 25, 2011 at 7:04pm

Very disheartening, Michael.  I was hoping to get a job as a parking lot attendant when Governor Cuomo completes the devastation of public education in New York State.  Now even that is slipping away!

Comment by Maureen Judge on March 5, 2011 at 3:29pm
I enjoyed reading your article! As technology advances, it definitely will leave some of  us behind and that's why schools need to adapt and move from an industrial mode of educating our students to a more technological mode.  Jobs will be lost and found as we evolve, but we have always been a nation of creative, innovative people. I hope, as educators, we strive to enrich our students' learning so that they will be prepared for the innovations of the future.
Comment by Dr. Lynnda M. Nadien on March 4, 2011 at 10:48pm
We have been told that the jobs of the future have not even been created yet, and obviously if they have they do not include human beings! Thus, we need to be prepared for everything and anything, and we need to let children know this each day as we are teaching them! Too bad for us administrators, because with a doctorate I may not even be able to apply at the parking garage after the state fires all of us for working so hard! What a world!!
Comment by Peter Suchmann on March 4, 2011 at 9:56pm
don't forget ethical literacy and environmental literacy......
Comment by Gerald Lauber Ed.D on March 4, 2011 at 7:38pm

Our focus is often on  visible or measurable outcomes.  Outcomes like test score or a car parked without human touch are the by product of a process called thinking.  Yes jobs will change, new products will be created and we will meet new challenges.  Yet the solution to everything we do comes through some type of though process.

I am work on setting up a Center at St. John's University that will teacher teachers how to teach financial literacy to a basically illiterate society.  Our methodology differs from may of the existing programs because we will not only focus on content but delivery and thinking. What good does it do have have information without it being transformed into useful knowledge.

So let's give some thought to providing our students with an opportunity to think.  The next question you may ask in your professional life may be how were you thinking rather than what were you thinking?

Comment by Peter Suchmann on March 4, 2011 at 7:35pm
I too would be amazed by this parking garage........and I too share your concern about the people that lost their respective jobs because of this new robotic system. I guess this is progress.........hmmmm ..but is it an improvement? Time will tell.
In terms of current education--and preparing for the future......what are the ingredients for a complete education? I am not sure ... technology is here to stay...but lets not lose the arts along the way....is college necessary----not for everyone. But learning how to learn, learning a work ethic, learning problem solving, learning compassion, and skills-----yet to be developed...and soon to be important......these are important for everyone. So......what should we be teaching....that it is productive to learn and to challenge yourself, to be honest and dedicated to personal principles......anything and everything that can be a future resource to society and the world of the future.





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