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Past Futures

It's nice to see your students do well after university - and especially if they remember you. Today an ex-student of mine who now works for Channel Ten in Brisbane came by to interview me for their Friday news show. He's found some 1980s news footage about the (then) impending changes due to the rise of computers, and is putting together a kind of reality check and update of the predictions made back then.

So, I talked about the 'computers will take over our lives' scenario from back then, and how it has, and hasn't, come true by now - yes, they're almost ubiquitous in our everyday lives, but they still aren't much smarter or in control of us than they were then. The main thing that has happened, and continues to happen, is the gradual shift away from manual and menial and towards more intellectual and creative work environments which computers have enabled - with all the negatives of workforce changes and unemployment for some, and the positives of more interesting and self-determined work for others. Has the computer destroyed more jobs than it's created, or is it the other way around? Perhaps that's not the most important question, as it's unlikely that we can change or stop the trend even if we wanted to. Rather, we need to make sure that new opportunities are made available to those who are disadvantaged by the changes. (Of course, socially responsible policy is not something the Howard government has ever been interested in...)