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Just Around the Bend: Digital Integration in Business and Education

Dan Huttenlocher, Dean and Vice Provost of Cornell Tech visited Schwarzman College to speak with Scholars about technology and education.  Alex Springer (Class of 2017) had the opportunity to speak with Dan after the session. 

The Schwarzman Scholars were recently treated to a visit from Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean and Vice Provost of Cornell Tech, a new graduate university program in New York dedicated to educating the next generation of technology leaders. The title of the talk, “Just Around the Bend: Digital Integration in Business and Education,” offered insights into how digital technology trends are affecting diverse industries around the world. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dean Huttenlocher and ask him a few questions. His responses are paraphrased below.

What is digital integration and what does it mean for us?

Digital integration is the digitization of industry, products, and many other things we see around us. It is not simply making something electronic or putting computer processors inside existing technologies but enabling many more devices to collect data, access the internet, and contribute to a connected ecosystem. In some industries, this means increased automation leading to higher efficiency. In others, it means more streamlined processes and lower failure rates or mistakes. It can even enable new insights and analysis based on the collection of data previously inaccessible. Digital integration is rapidly changing many industries and will continue to do so in the future.

What does automation mean for industry workers?

Many people have written about the potential downsides of automation for industry works with high potential for lost jobs and increasing unemployment. Others have also touted the benefits of automation including lower prices for goods and continuous production cycles. Dean Huttenlocher’s views fall somewhere in the middle as he views automation working in tandem with workers to enable better outcomes. Automated devices may be able to replace a lot of the monotony in daily work and improve job satisfaction levels and quality of life more so than taking away jobs from hardworking humans.

Much like the Schwarzman Scholars program, you have started a new educational institution with the goal of educating future technology leaders. How has this process been for you?

Starting a startup in any field requires wearing many hats and being able to handle rapid change. This role is no different. The role of Dean and Vice Provost of Cornell Tech is a job that constantly changes requirements and functions as we build the new campus, admit our first classes of students, recruit faculty, secure funding and a myriad of other tasks along the way. It has been an incredibly fun, challenging, yet rewarding experience where each day is an opportunity to learn or experience something new.

How does the pace of change in the current age differ from prior technology shifts?

The United States experienced significant economic growth by capitalizing on technology during the industrial revolution through innovations like the steam and gas engines, mass manufacturing, and others. We are currently experiencing a digital revolution and it is important not to be afraid of technology but rather to embrace it and adapt to the changing circumstances that innovation brings to society. While the pace of change in the digital revolution is occurring much faster than the industrial revolution, the methods of information dissemination, the hurdles to starting a company, and the challenges of bringing a new idea to the market have also lessened. The winners of the digital age will be those who can adapt quickly to change and figure out ways to embrace the abilities of digitally enabled technology.