Why humanities students will drive the future of the tech industry

Technology moves fast, constantly becoming more and more integrated into our everyday lives, and we need the workforce to compliment it.

Young professionals are gravitating towards the tech industry in great numbers due to this widening tech job market, in search of exciting and financially rewarding work.

An increasing number of students are looking to prioritise technical-focused degrees to gain the skills needed for these roles.  Acceptances onto computer science courses rising by almost 50% in the last decade, and acceptances onto the newer AI courses have seen a tremendous 400% rise.

In turn, humanities degrees are being left in the dust, with a drop of 40,000 students enrolling in arts and humanities degrees in the past decade. The growing belief is that these degrees do not equip students with the skills to work in tech. But as the world of tech continues to progress, its needs will keep evolving beyond the technical, while the jobs market will change according to these requirements.

Quantum computing could soon change all we know about tech. Its unprecedented speeds and processing power promise to transform our computing abilities and further the development of next-gen AI. As our world of technology changes, we will need to utilise the skills humanities degrees provide to keep up with itself.

The big ethical question

How to regulate emerging technologies like quantum computing is going to be a huge challenge as they develop, and a concerted effort is required to avoid their abuse and exploitation.

We are already seeing problems arise with AI, where the impact of biased datasets is under intensifying scrutiny. Quantum computing will only amplify this, making it even harder to manually analyse and correct its consequences.

There’s already a plethora of moral dilemmas emerging, and we need those who have skills in ethics and decision-making, which humanities degrees intrinsically teach, to help regulate these technologies. In the case of quantum computing, we’ll need to address socially responsible usage, fair access, and stopping monopolisation by companies.

We will also need people to be able to decide and enforce strict standards. These are unlikely to come from the pure tech or scientific community, whose focus tends to be solely on progress. Humanities degrees will equip the future workforce with the skills to work with these looming ethical dilemmas.

Keeping up with new tech

The inherent fast-paced nature of the tech industry means the demands of the job market are continually shifting. For example, right now there is an abundance of software developers, and even more wanted. There are over 465,700 software development professionals and programmers in the UK, more than doubling the 224,000 that there were a decade ago in 2011.

However, as technology advances, the advent of practical usage of quantum computing will begin to render software developers’ jobs obsolete as the knowledge required evolves. Instead of equipping workers with specific technical skills that may only have a half-life of 2.5 years, we need to plan for the long term.

Human development cannot keep up with how fast technology advances. By bringing non-tech workers with different perspectives into tech-minded workforces, such as those with humanities backgrounds, teams can become more balanced and capable of navigating these evolving needs more readily, drawing on knowledge that will not become outdated.

Fostering future needs

AI is now a common part of our lives, not just something fantastical in movies and science fiction. Quantum computing will follow suit, with predictions showing that by next year, 25% of the Fortune Global 500 will be using some form of quantum computing to gain a competitive advantage

As automation eliminates many tech-skilled occupations, we must foster what we need in our future tech workforce now – namely the soft skills humanities degrees bring. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills will be essential to be able to grapple with unprecedented problems and rapid developments.

Communication skills involving public speaking, teamwork, professional writing and leadership skills will be indispensable to working with the many companies and groups that will be beginning to work with quantum computing. The tech sector cannot turn its back on this portion of the talent pool – in fact, it should be nurturing and integrating these skills as a priority to ensure technological progress is not hampered.

About the Author

Liz Parnell is COO of Rackspace Technology. Be ready for what’s next with multicloud solutions from Rackspace Technology™. We are the multicloud solutions experts. We know what you’re up against because we’ve helped global companies across industries through it — and you can bet we’re ready to help. Our team delivers results by listening to your challenges and building custom cloud services and solutions that help your business perform better now and into the future.