Outen : Dennis Baron

Denis Baron’s “The Stages of Literacy Technology,” influenced me to realize how much we humans rely on computers and the importance of human labor. Baron’s article indicates, “The speaker of the House of Representatives suggested that inner-city children should try laptops to improve their performance (1).” Furthermore, the Governor of Illinois believes that illiteracy will be obliterated once every classroom gains access to the World Wide Web (1). One of my main questions is: Why are humans so dependent upon computers for progress, literacy, and labor?  It is true that computers get the job done much faster. For example, typing is a lot faster and less painful (in most circumstances) than writing. Baron indicates “I found that I had become so used to composing virtual prose at the keyboard, I could no longer draft anything coherent directly onto a piece of paper (1).” Based on this quote, I would question the level of dependence humans possess on technology for labor, and whether or not this dependence will hinder us in the future.

What happens when robots or “computers” begin taking more jobs? For example, in the grocery store, we already witness patrons checking out their own groceries. According to USA Today, self-scan checkouts were created for faster customer transactions (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/june01/2001-06-07-grocery-usat.htm). What about other areas of service? Dining areas? Transportation services? Military personnel? These fields and many more are at risk of being run by computer based robots rather than human beings.

In 2014, New York Times indicated 65.9 percent of high school graduates, in America, enrolled in college (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/26/business/fewer-us-high-school-graduates-opt-for-college.html?_r=0) . That same year Career Builder claimed 51 percent of Employed college graduates possessed jobs that did not require college degrees (http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=10%2F9%2F2014&id=pr846&ed=10%2F9%2F2099). I believe that jobs which do not require college degrees are at greater risk of becoming computerized. Furthermore, Gizmog states that 47 percent of American jobs are at risk of becoming computerized (http://www.gizmag.com/half-of-us-jobs-computerized/29142/).

As mentioned in the article, there are common debates and concerns over technological fraud in relation to identity theft and so forth (2). Fraud should be the responsibility of those in direct control of the law, and the creators of websites and computers in general. Although identity theft is a serious topic, we should also be concerned about jobs. It is a shame I have to ask, but who will steal from someone with no funds in their account? I believe both the people and authority should reevaluate their levels of dependence on technology. Many people are at risk of losing their jobs. I am not condemning technology, because it is fairly useful. However, I am worried that depending on technology too much will hinder the futures of many.

About Tionna Outen

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1 Response to Outen : Dennis Baron

  1. Annie Kingman says:

    Tionna- I agree with you that our world is becoming more and more robot/computer oriented, and as a result we are going to see changes in the job market as technology replaces manual labor. I have some tangential thoughts after reading your post. I also thought it was interesting that Baron reports that the Speaker of the House predicted that inner city kids will become more literate as they are given access to computers. I assume this claim is made because of the increase in reading material that the child can access with a computer. This reminded me of a chapter in the book, Freakonomics, in which they wondered whether kids who had access to many books in the home did better scholastically. This would reconcile with the Speaker of the House’s message; if the computer can give a child access to an increased number of books in the home, then they may do better academically (of course, as a result of their literacy). The Freakonomics study confirmed that there was a trend between books in the home and academic success, so perhaps the Speaker has a point. However, the trend is the aggregate result of multiple factors that all point toward the child’s future success (i.e. the child has access to books in the home = the child’s parents have some socio-economic status = the child will probably be exposed to proper schooling/learning resources anyways). So, maybe computers will actually not be the driving child literacy factor at all.

    The other part of your post that resonated with me is your concern with jobs being taken over by computers. I agree that we are starting to see this more and more often (self-checkouts, iPad menus at restaurants, manufacturing, etc.) You mention that more often the jobs that are in danger of being replaced by computers are those that do not require college degrees, and you’re right. What I think is that we are going to continue to see a shift toward tech-oriented jobs. This is logical, for as the simpler jobs are replaced by robots, work is required to run/create these robots. This is good news for the college graduates, because these tech jobs are not going to be as available to those without degrees. On the same point, being from San Francisco, I have seen how this reality has taken effect first-hand. Up and coming tech-companies based in the city and the surrounding Silicon Valley are demanding young, intelligent, and creative minds. As a result, the city is undergoing a transformation as Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, Fitbit, etc. have all recently established HQs there. What we have seen is a younger, richer population beginning to move in to SF to fill positions in these companies, and areas that were once run down are now being renovated to provide adequate housing for these people’s lifestyles. The grander result is that the city is now having rent-control issues as it is simply becoming too expensive for the non-college graduate to live in a place where tech-employed people can afford a significant increase in the cost of living. I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent, but I think that we will eventually see the San Francisco trend occur nationwide as computers replace humans in the lower end job market.

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