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The Evolution of Technology

Apr 06, 2018 03:13PM ● Published by Makayla Gay

By Lauren Simer

Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Greenville Technical College

Opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics used augmented reality technology blended with a history of the country’s rich culture, creating an understated yet hauntingly beautiful start that set the stage for a focus on technology throughout the games. There were skiing robots on the slopes in Pyeongchang. Advances in medical technology allowed athletes like McMorris, with life-threatening injuries just one year earlier, to recover and compete, earning a bronze medal. Television commercials featured virtual reality (VR) and examples of “smart homes” that are not simply adjusted or monitored by a smart device, but automatically adjust to the homeowner’s preferences.  

If you feel as though technology is evolving at a sometimes-frenetic pace, you are not alone.  In 1965, one of Intel’s co-founders, Gordon Moore, made a prediction based on his observation of an emerging trend that computing would dramatically increase in power and decrease in relative cost at an exponential pace. The rapid evolution of technology can make people feel anxious about potentially losing their jobs to robots, the loss of personal control, or perhaps concern about the security of their information or home environment.

Change requires that workers adjust. In the late 18th and early 19th century, technological changes occurred in agriculture that created a new era known as the Industrial Revolution. It required a different type of worker with more specialized training. Through the 20th century, the labor force shifted even further from farming to service industries, with a rise in professional and technical workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1900, fewer than 14 percent of all Americans graduated from high school. By 1999, 25 percent of all Americans had graduated from a school of higher learning.

The technological revolution has powerful implications for the future, but there are astonishing technological advances across multiple industries currently. Virtual reality (VR) is used by medical students to examine body functions and disease in a controlled environment. Augmented reality encourages an amputee to continue the physical therapy necessary to regain the ability to walk. Robots are serving drinks, distributing food, and playing games with the elderly in assisted living facilities in Japan and Germany to increase communication, improve service, and possibly reduce loneliness. Additive manufacturing technology continues to evolve, with Adidas recently unveiling a running shoe featuring Carbon 3D printed insoles.  Of course, who wasn’t paying attention when Elon Musk’s Space X Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched in February, with the cheeky “DON’T PANIC” dashboard car screen humor?

Artificial intelligence can be designed with decision-making systems that have complex validation and testing, perhaps even resolving the conundrum of moral ambiguity with technology’s black and white interpretation of the world.  Augmented reality can be used to educate and encourage. Much like the Industrial Revolution through the 20th century, workers will need to learn new skills to keep pace. While many jobs of the 21st century are not yet defined, it is projected that 65 percent of vacancies by 2020 will require education beyond high school. Most states have set aggressive higher education attainment goals for the next decade and beyond. Institutions of higher education like Greenville Technical College must stay in front of the rapid changes in order to educate the workforce of the future. Many new learning opportunities exist for keeping pace with these technology changes as we respond to the demands of business and industry. Our Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) has state-of-the-art equipment and programs to help prepare the workforce of today and into the future.  Encouragement for the incumbent worker or young person who may not have considered college as part of a career path could provide a positive outlet for alleviating some of the angst caused by technology’s rapidly changing environment.

This machine age is multi-dimensional, but one must not forget the most important of all dimensions, humanness. We are drawn into the excitement of Elon Musk’s pageantry, not only for the technology, but because of the creative presentation in all that he does. Robots that serve drinks to the elderly may be developed to have endearing faces that appear to react or even “emote,” but they will not replace the need for humans to feel the touch of another human in a simple hug. The 2018 Winter Olympics were not only about the technology that enabled the athletes to triumph over adversity, but as humans, we are drawn to their personal stories. It is the human experience, the courage, and that connection we feel to one another that compels us to watch, cheering our favorite athletes. So while technological advances are inevitable, they cannot replace creativity of the human mind and the importance of life-long learning.  

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