"Symptoms of Growth" by Dan Ross

As I read the Executive Summary of the ICER report (http://academic.evergreen.edu/projects/icer/) several key things stand out.

1) The content of the field has changed radically.
2) There is no uniform agreement about what constitutes Computing.
3) Graduates lack a systems approach to deal with complex systems.

What do these three things have in common? They are all symptoms of growth. Moore’s Law is alive and well, inexorably driving growth of the entire field.

Here’s an analogy. I occasionally hear the phrase “Google is the next Microsoft,” as if Microsoft has gone away somewhere. In truth, Microsoft is alive and well and bigger than ever. We forget that browsers and other software run on Windows.

This pattern repeats as increasing computer power and connectivity make more things possible in more and more fields, continually adding to the breadth and depth of human knowledge. We still need the Microsofties, but now we ALSO need the Googlers. In addition, we need the geographical scientists, the bioinformaticists, the weather modelers, the chip verifiers, etc. We need them all - and then we go to India to get even more skilled people.

1) So has the content of the field changed radically? Are linked-lists gone? I don’t think so. There is just a whole lot MORE going on, with some bits of knowledge more important to some people than to others.
2) Is there no uniform agreement about what constitutes Computing? Of course there isn’t, if the only word we have to describe Computing is “Computing”.
3) Do graduates lack a systems approach to deal with complex systems? Maybe, if they are narrowly trained in one traditional discipline, with no room in the curriculum to add more new stuff.

So, what is the solution? Is the solution “specialization”, (a depth-first approach), or is it “interdisciplinarianism” (a breadth-first approach), or is it something in between, or is it something else entirely?

Please comment!

Dan Ross
CIS/Engineering, Folsom Lake College
Folsom, CA

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