The advantage of computing goes to those who create, not those who use

March 8, 2011 at 9:41 am 5 comments

Interesting piece by Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.  Read all the way to the bottom where he points out that just giving workers degrees won’t restore middle class society.  Krugman’s argument makes sense, but he makes the same mistake that most education administrators make.  The real advantage to the individual of computing is not in using computers.  That doesn’t require any particular education, as Krugman points out.

Krugman misses that the economic advantage goes to those who know how to create with computing. Those who can program (which does require education) have (a) an advantage which enables innovation and (b) the ability to marshal the resources of what used to take many human laborers, thus increasing productivity.

Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands.

Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, “cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules.” Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can’t be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress.

via Degrees and Dollars – NYTimes.com.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

Contextualized computing ed works — it’s just not there Closing of the CS Ed Mind

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Victor Eijkhout  |  March 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Just curious, are there sources outside of the circle of us, enlightened computenists, who do realize your point about the difference between routine use and creative use of computers?

    Reply
    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  March 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

      There are states that recognize the difference — see the Running on Empty report.

      Reply
      • 3. Mark Miller  |  March 14, 2011 at 2:13 am

        I looked at “Running on Empty” and I was surprised by the ranking for Colorado. I looked at the computing curriculum for Boulder High School, where I went more than 20 years ago, and it looks like things have definitely changed. Some time ago you had brought up the fact that programming classes were disappearing from high schools, perhaps with the exception of AP CS. I checked out BHS at that time, and it looked like they still had a “filled out” programming curriculum, teaching one or two programming languages, like C++, in addition to AP CS. One of the things that probably helped is the computer teacher that was there when I was, was still there up until about 4 or 5 years ago, when she presumably retired. She had a Bachelor’s degree in CS.

        I checked back on March 9, and now those programming courses are gone. It now matches the profile you talked about. All they have are “Comp App,” which I assume is “computer applications,” a computer club, and AP CS in Java. I was a bit shocked.

        I have heard of education funding being cut in this state, due to having to plug a state budget hole. Perhaps this was one of the consequences.

        Reply
  • […] This is sparking a rebirth of the small, even one person, development organization. Students are creating and selling programs on Xbox marketplace and Windows Phone 7 marketplace and making real money. Some though sales and some though advertising supported software which is something that didn?t exist even a few years ago. Another difference with this new environment is that this time companies and businesses realize that they need, or at least want, to have applications for these new devices. There are not really enough people ready and trained to create them (see More Computer Scientists Needed To Create Mobile Apps). What does this mean to students today? I think Mark Guzdial said it well in his post titled The advantage of computing goes to those who create, not those who use. […]

    Reply
  • […] This is sparking a rebirth of the small, even one person, development organization. Students are creating and selling programs on Xbox marketplace and Windows Phone 7 marketplace and making real money. Some though sales and some though advertising supported software which is something that didn?t exist even a few years ago. Another difference with this new environment is that this time companies and businesses realize that they need, or at least want, to have applications for these new devices. There are not really enough people ready and trained to create them (see More Computer Scientists Needed To Create Mobile Apps). What does this mean to students today? I think Mark Guzdial said it well in his post titled The advantage of computing goes to those who create, not those who use. […]

    Reply

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