You wake up one day in a world without technology – all the computers on the planet just disappeared.
Well, first of all, you didn’t wake up at the right time, because your smartphone was your alarm and that’s gone. Nevertheless, you get up and start getting ready for work but you can’t turn on the lights, shower or brush your teeth, because power, gas and water are public utilities run by massive computer systems. So you just get dressed and go outside to your car, but unless it was manufactured over three decades ago, it’s likely not going to start, because these days most everything in a car is operated by what’s called a controller area network – basically an onboard computer. Public transportation is out for the same reasons and even if your car had started, traffic would have been a nightmare snarl with all traffic lights out. Better start walking!
So, you get to work. It’s the same situation there; no lights, no Internet, no email, no instant messaging, no phones. You could start conducting business by postal mail, provided that’s still functioning. The day’s going to get even more meeting heavy; limited to whoever’s in the office. Lunch will be whatever hasn’t spoiled yet. It looks like the whole workday’s a wash and getting home is going to be just as hard. Making dinner will be like camping. Feel like relaxing with Netflix or a video game? Forget it; entertainment will likely have to be reading by candlelight or playing an acoustic instrument.
And that’s just describing how a day without technology would go for a typical office worker. For students too; universities would grind to halt. Hospitals would shut down, likely resulting in fatal situations. Airlines too would be grounded; the whole planet would just stop moving around. Humanity overall would have been set back 50 years or more.
That’s probably enough dystopic visualization for now. The point is, imagining all this makes the much publicized IT skills gap seen and felt in the U.S. and internationally difficult to fathom, or even for everyone agree on why it’s there. But it is, and it’s widening.
With this in mind, Code.org recently put together a video called “What Most Schools Don't Teach” interviewing tech giants Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg along with tech execs from new, dynamic companies – and even NBA player Chris Bosh and musician Will.i.am – to encourage young people to consider, quite simply, learning to code and going from there. “The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future,” says Gabe Newell, co-founder of video game developer Valve. “You’re going to look like you have magic powers compared to everybody else.”
The video equates learning to code with becoming a musician or an athlete, all while downplaying its difficulty; portraying it as simple as addition, subtraction and multiplication. It emphasizes the coolness of typical tech firms’ offices by not just describing them but showing them off. It also points out the current ubiquity of computers as well as their essentialness to modern survival; the latter of which is something we often overlook.
Consider this personal anecdote: My house is in Chicago, close to CompTIA’s headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois. It gets very cold in Chicago in winter. This past January, my pipes froze and burst. I had a plumber out immediately and he told me I had to leave the water to the whole house shut off overnight and he’d be back to make repairs in the morning. Faced with this news, I actually thought to myself, “Well, at least the Internet isn’t down.”
That’s how essential information technology has become to 21st-century modern life; a rational man (at least I hope) would rank it above household running water. Forget a world without tech; I didn’t want to go a night without it.
Put simply, computers are everywhere, a point placed into stark relief when we consider a world where they’re nowhere. This is why we should no longer look at IT as a niche field, a part of the world, but rather the entire world. Students today can get into tech by simply starting to learn to code, as the video suggest, acquiring an IT certification (which we’d of course recommend) or going as far as acquiring a degree in computer science, but they should give the field full consideration because of how central it’s become to who we are and how we live.
Daniel Margolis is an editor at CompTIA.