The world as we know it is changing. Our children are the ones most affected by this change, and littleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir feels that this change is entirely for the better. She describes technology as the language of today; which is an apt description of how young people are becoming increasingly tech-literate. Unlike the older generations, these young people are creators rather than consumers. They understand the technology on such a deep level that they are capable of using it for creation rather than set function.
We all have this image in our head of the young technology genius who innovated and invented their way to business stardom. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on. These are the success stories of young people taking the technology in their hands and creating something with it, and I’ll tell you now, there will be far more of these types of individuals in the world very soon. They may not reach the household name status of these people, but they have the capacity to be equally as influential.
It’s possible there may not be another superstar tech giant in the future by the very virtue of there being so many talented, inventive people working in the industry. Even in the legacy of the computing space, there are numerous unsung heroes who quietly went about their work without ever pursuing fame or glory. Being a good programmer or systems designer may become the equivalent of being a good plumber. The work will be appreciated and well valued, but hardly headline news.
Let’s take virtual reality at the moment. There are two genuine high-end competitors already on the market. Facebook-owned Oculus and their Rift device, and Valve’s (a video games developer and distributor) Vive system, developed in conjunction with HTC. Although there is a developer framework for Oculus to foster emerging talent and new ideas, Valve has taken all the stops off with the Vive and are banking on tech community bedroom developers to create the next big application for VR. Valve arguably understand the changing face of technology more than the stuffy, corporate minds at Facebook.
If we can already see this inherent tinkering and technical creation culture emerging from teenagers and those in their twenties, what about the generation currently growing up with smartphones, tablets, and apps? Bdeir feels like when they grow up, they will be the true technology pioneers of the future. The old-guard of the sector will be washed away by the growth and innovation of new talent. Not only that but the affordability and availability of this technology now have profound ramifications in breaking class boundaries.
Previously, most tech magnates and innovators came from quite privileged backgrounds. At the very least they were economically comfortable to invest in fledgling technology to experiment and play around with. Now you can pick up a used tablet or smartphone for a relatively reasonable cost. We are on the cusp of a generation that almost entirely has grown up with advanced technology at its fingertips.
What Bdeir is doing with littleBits is expediting that process and helping foster a deeper understanding of technology, what it does, and how to create it. Using basic color-coded parts, she intends to help to teach children how to power circuits, build computers, and create assorted gadgetry. Much like how today’s technology is based on endlessly configurable parts with multiple applications, so do the slightly simplified versions used in littleBits.
Being able to create technology will be the ‘self-sufficiency’ of this generation. Self-sufficiency is an ongoing attempt by the more manual generations to care for themselves. This can mean anything from creating your own tools, to growing your own food, but as technology has progressed self-sufficiency has taken on other applications. You’ll find the DIY phenomenon was born out of self-sufficient people learning how to fix household appliances and whatnot. You’ll also find some trying to be self-sufficient regarding energy, with many of the early solar and wind power home-applications being developed by tinkerers looking to get themselves off the conventional power grid.
Getting to the point, this kind of upcoming technology revolution is a long time coming. As our lives have transitioned away from purely finding the means to survive, the creative and analytical parts of our brains are lighting up and getting more use than ever before. Invention is the great differentiator between the Human species and animal. We’d have long since died out if we did not create the wheel, or understand the means with which to make fire. Invention is in our nature.
Young people getting intimately knowledgeable with technology is not only exciting but also essential to society. Looking to the future, as service and manual labor jobs begin to get phased out to some degree, there needs to be a vast replacement industry to pick up the generations that come after this change.
Technology, on the whole, is widely accepted as this industry. Technology will never disappear no matter how far it advances. Its applications will always remain limitless, and regardless of whether you’re designing the nuts and bolts components of a device, or programming apps and system software, the work will never end. It obviously won’t roll every single young person into its workforce, but the technology sector is going to be as dominant an employer as manufacturing was in previous centuries. It’s entirely possibly we’re heading towards a new industrial revolution on the back of the next generation.
So what will this all mean for those in older generations, like you and me? Even in the long and short term, we don’t have much to worry about. Our jobs may last with the oncoming tech revolution, but even if they don’t, an organized and responsible wind-down of our careers will see us safely to retirement. It’s not often that I can say this with a straight face, but the future looks genuinely bright in some spots, and I have total confidence this new, tech-savvy generation will guide us all to a better tomorrow.