Some people struggle with the question “What is IT?” and I have on many occasions struggled to provide an answer that they can understand. This blog is dedicated to the related question, “Why IT?”
Our technology is evolving at a rapid pace. We need people who can assess, select, and implement these technologies in ways that are helpful and cost effective. According to futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, the pace of technological evolution is exponential rather than linear. Some of you may need a definition of linear and exponential, so I will provide one. This is not something that we should ignore or misunderstand.
A linear pace is one that graphs as a straight line. For example
y is always twice x. By contrast, an exponential pace is one that graphs as a parabola. For example
One of the properties of exponential growth is that as long as the exponent is greater than one, the growth will eventually take off at an extremely fast pace. Exponential growth is fast. Further, Kurzweil shows that technology growth may be faster than exponential. He makes a compelling argument that not only is the growth exponential, but that the exponent itself is growing.
This is not just fast. This is mind-boggling fast and it will get faster every year. We should expect a growing change that at once seems like a revolution. We should expect intelligent machines. We should expect the unexpected.
People are always chasing the market and missing opportunities. The IT “bubble” burst in 2001 and we were left with a surplus of IT workers so students have gone elsewhere. Nevertheless, demand for IT workers has grown and now outstrips supply. In a January 5, 2009 article in the Star Tribune, a Minneapolis newspaper, Laura French states that the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development projected an estimated shortfall of 1000 jobs per year in Minnesota (1).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics made similar predictions in the growth in demand for IT workers nationwide. According to the 2008-09 Occupational Outlook Handbook the growth in jobs for computer scientists, database administrators, systems analysts, and systems administrators is expected to be much faster than the average growth in all jobs between now and 2016 (2).
IT jobs are in demand and demand will continue to rise. These jobs also pay much better than other jobs. Recent economic conditions will impact demand temporarily. Choices made by today’s incoming college freshman to go into IT or Computer Science may “over correct” leaving us with a temporary surplus of IT workers in four years time. Increasingly, many IT jobs have moved overseas where mathematics and science disciplines are still highly regarded. However, based upon my personal understanding and my review of the predictions of those greater than I, such as futurist Ray Kurzweil, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, my belief is strong that IT will be an ever-growing field and IT graduates will have the best opportunities, including opportunities that I cannot imagine, over the coming decades.
Why IT? Because exponential growth is nothing to ignore nor misunderstand. Because we have a compelling duty to ourselves and our nation to develop our nation’s pool of technology experts and professionals.
If our nation fails at IT, our outlook is bleak. It is imperative that those of us who have the ability to learn and work in this field do so.