Back in the fifties, it was my job at IBM to write articles on how computers would change the future. So, I asked a math professor at the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory if there would ever be a home computer. He said, “No, there may be computer devices like a smart thermostat but we will never have a home (personal) computer.” I will now make a prediction about the future that is becoming true as you read this – which is, kids will soon go to school in electronic classrooms.
OK, how can I say this?
Jane Singer, our Managing Editor, is British and went back to London to renew her visa and view, in the rain, bits of the Diamond Jubilee. As I groaned that she would be gone just as we would be having our final editorial meeting she said, “No, I will be on Skype.”
Skype allows you to see and hear over your computer. Sure enough, as our staff sat around my Mac, Jane came in from her room in Hampstead Health, where she grew up and joined in the conversation as if she were sitting next to us. At one point, I showed her (the camera lens) some photos for the next edition to ask her to make a decision and as if she were in the room, she saw and selected. After a few minutes we forgot that Jane was in London – indeed she was not – she was in a meeting at 69 Charles.
So, I say kids of the not so distant future will meet in electronic classrooms – think of the money we will save not have to build brick and mortar schools. Sure, you can conjure other benefits – one-on-one teaching and you can take a class for a walk through the Louvre or around the Parthenon.
In the fifties at IBM, we would always say the computers would never think – in today’s Times, they are doing just that. The future continues to accelerate as our ability to know what to do with it falters.