“Shift happens”

A couple of years ago, I watched a video called “shift happens”.  (Today I was surprised, but not shocked, to find the video on YouTube.)  Following are some thoughts I wrote down soon after seeing it the first time.

At first, the quick flow of facts about change seemed overwhelming, kind of like being flattened by a powerful ocean wave .  The statements were coming faster than I could process them (fittingly, for the theme of the video!)  As the video continued, though, I came out of shock and began to notice something interesting.  The “facts”, presented as an impenetrable wall, seemed to me to have some problems.  What gave me pause was not what the video directly stated, but the things it seemed to imply.  I wasn’t able to get a lot down on paper, but here are a few things I observed.  (Some quotes are from memory – I think I have the gist of them right):

Soon a $1000 computer will exceed the computational power of the human brain…nations…the world

Were the video’s several statements on this theme implying that human intellect will become less and less important in the future?  It seemed so to me.  That seems similar to saying something like “Soon automobile assembly lines will be so quick at stamping out automobiles that we will no longer need human designers to create next year’s model” (anyone else see a problem with that hypothesis?)  Yes, computers are getting quicker and quicker at doing our bidding, but is our bidding getting honed to a more and more precise level?  That seems to be proceeding much more slowly.  It seems to me that the software industry as a whole is if anything still very much struggling to listen to and understand our customers and instruct the computers rightly.  In that way I would say that rather than growing so different than ever before, the state of computing resembles what it’s been for the last two decades to an alarming degree!

What college freshmen learn will be obsolete by their third year

This one really got me.  Waaaiit a minute.  So, there are no basics anymore?  Or the basics will be obsolete in three years?  No way.  This might be true if students are taking Buzzwords 101, but are we saying that classes that help us get better at communication skills, critical thinking, and problem solving will be unnecessary, or perhaps that education in great literature or history will no longer be relevant?  I don’t buy it.

As the information finished flashing across the screen, it occurred to me that what we’re seeing is more and more noise.  In a culture of ever more noise, foundations and basics are if anything more important, more relevant.  Not only that, they’re refreshing.

In China, if you’re one in a million there are 1500 people just like you

There are more honors students in China than the entire population of North America

I don’t think it was intended to be this way, but the video’s primary message came across to me as a depressing “In the near future, individuals won’t matter anymore, and the world is changing so fast that it’s hardly worth trying, because the things we do will be obsolete before we finish them.”  I would say rather, “The world isn’t as different as we hoped it would be by now.  We’ve tried hard, but we still aren’t there.  Sometimes we’re not sure we will ever get there.  The situation calls for individual men and women of courage who are determined to pull for what’s right and good – will you be one of those?”  (I don’t know how you’d be one of those but by the grace of God.)


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