Content sponsored by Eleven Fifty Academy and Indiana University Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering

In IBJ’s Thought Leadership Roundtable, experts at Eleven Fifty Academy and Indiana University Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering discuss the current and future state of technology, and the importance of technology education.

What has the pandemic shown us about the value/importance of technology?

Scott Jones: The pandemic dramatically increased our already-growing reliance on technology for education, healthcare, and in just about every area of our lives, including Zoom, DoorDash, Instacart, Netflix, Amazon, etc. The awareness that not every family has the same resources and access to technology was laid bare. There is an exploding need for communities and organizations to create sustainable solutions, including ubiquitous basic digital literacy, broadband access, and additional tech education pathways.

Dennis Groth: Without a doubt, technology has allowed many aspects of our lives and work to continue during the pandemic. I’m not saying it has been perfect in all circumstances and for all people, but the alternative would have been to shut down all forms of contact, education, and commerce—clearly, an unacceptable position to imagine. Although technology enabled a type of continuation, the pandemic also showed that a technology-enabled pivot to online or virtual operations was not a perfect pivot. We learned a great deal about best practices and what to try to avoid.

What is quantum computing and what can it do for us?

Dennis Groth: Quantum computing is a new form of computation that performs calculations on an exponential number of states simultaneously, which allows for quantum computers to handle an exponentially larger amount of data than classical computing. Why is this important? Quite simply, data and the complexity of data keeps expanding, and our ability to process solutions to the most challenging problems we will face in science and society will call for new paradigms of computing, such as quantum, to become reality. Multiple faculty across IU Bloomington, including faculty from the Luddy School, are collaborating to advance quantum science and to teach a new master’s degree in quantum science.

Scott Jones: Quantum computing is a next generation of supercomputers and currently is thought to be valuable for areas such as bio and chemical sciences. The potential for its usage will both disrupt and revolutionize industries. Basically, because it creates exponential scale of parallel solutions to extremely hard (and expensive) real-world problems, it literally changes EVERYTHING. Quantum computing can turn all of our current thinking about digital security systems and cryptocurrencies on its head, for example.

What other new areas of technology should we be aware of?

Scott Jones: I think there are enormous opportunities with technologies such as blockchain, not just with cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, but with real-world processes that are intertwined with just about every industry.

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing sectors of tech. Entirely new dimensions of genomics are exploding now, with transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. These are areas that may help eradicate the top causes of diseases and mortality on an accelerated basis. The Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, virtual reality, and wearable devices are transforming the way we think about the things we feel, hear, and see.

Autonomous vehicles (and machine learning in general) are in their infancy. Nanotechnology has barely been tapped, but it will be ripe for quantum leaps of advancement over the coming decades.

Dennis Groth: There are many areas worthy of discussion, including artificial intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity. One of our newest degrees at IU Bloomington is a Bachelors in Cybersecurity and Global Policy, which combines tech skills in security from the Luddy School in partnership with international study and global policy education from the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. The program is only in its second year, but we have experienced an almost 1,000% increase in student applications to the program. At the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, we’ve created a bachelor’s in Artificial Intelligence in partnership with the IUPUI School of Science and Purdue’s School of Engineering and Technology. These are just a few examples where technology in the context of other disciplines creates new hybrid and interdisciplinary opportunities.

How does Artificial Intelligence figure into the future of work?

Dennis Groth: Artificial intelligence (AI) has great potential to support the advancement of science, business, and our society. By leveraging the power of AI algorithms to solve complex problems, we create new opportunities to improve the quality of life for people in our state, region, country and the planet.

Although algorithms may lie at the heart of AI, we cannot lose sight of the ethical aspects of its use, the way in which people interact with AI, and the regulatory framework and control of the deployment of AI resources.

The Luddy School and the new Luddy Center for Artificial Intelligence provides an incredibly broad spectrum of educational and research opportunities to advance and study AI, from algorithms to implementation of AI systems to the ultimate impact of AI on humanity.

Scott Jones: Appropriately metered use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially when coupled with big data (and ultimately with quantum computing) will greatly influence work, life, and the future of our planet (and beyond), but the most important aspects will be in the morals, laws, and culture that are made available to us.

Humans need to be intentional about how we deploy artificial intelligence. The easy part is creating and integrating the tech into everything we do. The hard part is deciding how and when and whether we do it. We will lose transparency of decision-making quickly if we are not vigilant to the extreme. Accountability of “decisions” that involved AI will also become a hot topic for the courts. Who is responsible—the programmer who wrote the code?

Is an education in technology/computing right for everyone? If so, why?

Scott Jones: Yes, an education in technology and computing can be a right path for just about anyone. It is becoming difficult to avoid working without touching technology. A degree of understanding should be incorporated into everyone’s education, for basic literacy in our world.

At Eleven Fifty Academy, we offer several no cost or relatively low-cost courses, and through initial exploration, candidates for our world-class training can easily explore which options are best for them. Almost everyone is able to learn tech. It’s NOT math, science, or engineering. It’s more about problem solving and logic.

Dennis Groth: We certainly need more students to study a technology discipline, such as informatics, computer science, or intelligent systems engineering. That said, all students must include technology/computing in their education plans, regardless of their area of study. Almost every job is impacted in some way by technology, and students should see that they need to prepare themselves to the best of their ability to learn technology and computing skills. The IUB Luddy School and the IUPUI School of Informatics and Computing provide opportunities to study from a wide selection of technology disciplines and support technology education opportunities for all students on our campus.

Employees with “soft skills” and who value life-long learning are attractive to employers. How do those concepts come into play in tech education?

Scott Jones: Eleven Fifty Academy supports students holistically, with “soft skills,” which we think are actually “essential skills.”

We’ve partnered with Purpose HQ and other organizations that help us achieve these goals that are not necessarily common in a “tech education.” A critical component of our curriculum is developing leadership, communication, teamwork, and organizational skills in our students. We not only address the technical side of our courses, such as syntax and semantics, but also these valuable “essential skills,” which positively reinforce students in real jobs in the real world.

Dennis Groth: I disagree with the term “soft.” Working in a team setting, effectively communicating with others, developing leadership qualities—all examples of so-called soft skills—are not easy. A well-rounded tech education like the education provided at the Luddy School will incorporate these critical skills alongside the context of the core technology. For example, we offer many courses that integrate teamwork as a key element of what students learn.

How can technology and technology education be leveraged to help vulnerable populations and underserved communities?

Scott Jones: Technology is supposed to be the great equalizer and requires a massively collaborative community effort. This is critical to leveraging technology to help vulnerable populations and the underserved. The partnership among Martin University, InnoPower, Eastern Star Church, Goodwill Industries Excel Program, the Indianapolis Recorder, and Eleven Fifty Academy was recently awarded a $5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to address this specific issue. The solutions are multi-faceted, and we hope to create a national model for transformative potential and game-changing positive results.

Dennis Groth: We should never forget that computers enable an improved quality of life. Whether it be by ensuring that access to technology and the internet are broadly available, or that all students have access to good tech education opportunities in school, it is imperative that we support underserved and vulnerable populations. One example that we are very proud of at the Luddy School is the Laurie Burns McRobbie Serve IT Program, which provides tech and application support for community non-profits. Our students get real-world experience while connecting their tech skills to helping organizations that support underserved populations. Meanwhile at IUPUI, SOIC is home to the Informatics-Diversity Enhanced Workforce program that equips Indiana high school students with the IT and informatics skills they need to succeed.

What are Indiana’s strengths as it tries to retain/attract top tech talent?

Dennis Groth: Indiana has many strengths in its favor. The state remains a strong supporter of business innovation, and the traditional Hoosier Midwest work ethic is a key differentiator. We boast top universities and top technology programs, including the Luddy School and IUPUI SOIC, that are performing world-leading technology research while providing truly great educational programming. There are strong startup cultures emerging across the state, which will both attract and retain top talent.

Scott Jones: Indiana stands out as a top destination to live, work, and play. Our cost of living and quality of life is attractive, and so are our employment options. Skilling up a tech workforce and keeping our talent becomes easier each day with the constant improvements to our sustainable ecosystem. Eleven Fifty Academy is proud to be a part of this ecosystem and will continually transform lives into rapid careers in tech through our unique, nationally recognized immersion programs.