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This Week in Tech

A new year, a new style

Welcome back. A question for you: Would you prefer fewer news links with more 'in depth' though provoking pieces - or do you like the flood of news that tended to happen towards the end of last year? Please let us know in the comments. To give you an idea of the alternatives - the last few blog posts of last year were in the 'list of items' category and this post gives you a little sample of what a more 'in depth' approach might look like...

Automation. It's the big bogeyman of tech - the process of getting rid of the human factor in the name of increased efficiency and productivity at the cost of jobs for real people. We often only tend to think about it in abstract - as something that happens in big factories where robots stand side by side in long rows on assembly lines. The reality is that automation happens everywhere - even in small businesses and offices. A small example with significant consequences is the automation of parking payment systems in malls. There's even a field of study devoted to devising new ways to automate things - anyone want to be an Automation Engineer?

We talk a lot about the consequences of automation - the loss of jobs, the fact that people need higher levels of education and training to qualify for the new jobs available (because all the low skilled jobs have become automated). Does anyone think about the people who come up with the automation ideas - or have to implement automation in their workplace - and how it affects them?

Brian Merchant at Gizmodo has a piece on the topic well worth reading. It's called So you automated your coworkers out of a job.

The types of jobs that are lost to automation are also changing. Here's a take (from FastCompany) on jobs that will be at risk in the future. This is not the list of jobs that you typically associate with robots and automation - but is a trend that is emerging and is well worth paying attention to.

How many jobs are at stake? Well, according to this study from McKinsey and associates up to 73 million jobs in America alone could be lost to automation by 2030. That's after the over 500 million jobs already lost worldwide to date.

Maybe we should pay more attention to the discussion about the potential need for (and feasibility of) a GBI (guaranteed basic income)....

Sysadmins. The guys behind the scenes who make sure that your tech runs smoothly. The guys who manage your networks, keep your encryption up to date, make your backups... Also known as tech support or the IT dept.

Sysadmins have more insight, power and knowledge than you might be aware of. In fact, the biggest 'Gangsta' trial of this century - that of the drug Kingpin El Chapo - hinges on information gained when his Sysadmin was convinced to become a witness for the prosecution. You can find details at Gizmodo (again).

Remember that the next time you are rude or inconsiderate to the IT guy.

For some fun videos on the trial and tribulations of life as a Sysadmin look at this playlist on YouTube. You can also try to get hold of The IT Crowd (a BBC Chanel 4 comedy). It's also fair to warn your learners that this is the most mainstream career path for many IT professionals - and I'm pretty sure you can also entertain them with many stories from your own personal experience.

It might be a good idea to draw up a profile of skills needed by IT people (and a separate one for programmers) that we can use during subject choice discussions in grade 9 to help learners know how well suited they are for the subject.

Any ideas?

Hope you like the new format - PLEASE leave some feedback in the comments section.

All the best for the new teaching year!

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