Today’s cell phones have more computing power then the rocket that put man on the moon.
That is a statement that I heard over the weekend, during a television segment that talked about protecting your job from takeover by a computer.
There is no doubt that computers such as Watson, developed in IBM’s DeepQA project, and the increasing use of “Artificial Intelligence”, are raising the bar when it comes to human tasks. In fact, a recent report showed that during the recession, the U.S. lost 2.3 million manufacturing jobs. Starting in 2013, we gained back only 550,000 of those jobs (to a total of about 12 million), and interestingly enough we are just about back to the same productivity that we had in 2008 with fewer employees. How did we do it…technology? This is not Henry Ford’s assembly line.
However, despite all of the advances in technology, artificial intelligence or not, there are a lot of jobs that need humans. And there is a lot to be said about humans with old fashion hands-on experience.
As an example; when I started my career in business, I was responsible for keeping the company books. I had a fifteen column cash journal (that weighed about five pounds), whereby I posted all of the cash and check disbursements. A general journal where I recorded the customer debits and credits, and a ledger book where I kept track of client billings. Each month I added long columns of numbers using a 10 Key machine with a printer tape where everything was cross checked to make sure the numbers balanced. You might call it Cost Accounting in longhand. Today, I simply put my account codes and dollar amounts into Quicken or QuickBooks and push a button and I am done. But it was those years of writing numbers into the proper columns and thinking through the process that gave me a true understanding of how things tie together and how to cross check for errors.
The same basic understanding is needed for more technical related professions such as engineering. Before AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design), engineers used a ruler (they call it a scale), calculator (HP pocket computer), a T-square, special pens and pencils, and various sundry templates to create detailed drawings.
Many of today’s more experienced professionals (I didn’t say older), like Kent Anderson, P.E., Principal/Owner of NBD, spent years in the field surveying and monitoring construction projects while studying drafting and engineering. Upon graduation he worked as a team member on various building and infrastructure projects learning how to engineer projects that were both cost efficient and durable. In addition, his time on the construction site gave him insight as to how projects were actually built.
It was not the computer that put man on the Moon; it was the years of scientific experiments and the experience of the human controllers on the ground and in the capsule that made that historic event possible. And even though AutoCAD Civil 3D software puts a lot of computing power into the hands of designers and engineers, it would be useless without the basic engineering knowledge needed to make it work. Think about trying to use an accounting program without knowing the difference between income and expenses, assets and liabilities, accounts receivable and payable.
Technology is no match to experience and human knowledge.
At NBD, we use our mind and then the technology.
At Your Service,
Craig A. Ruark, LEED AP (BD+C)