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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.
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?"