Microsoft Blogger Series-Caroline Sutor-technology on children

As a mum who works full time in an industry which is on the brink of evolution and transformation, I often look at my kids and wonder what their future will be like.

My eleven-year-old and seven-year-old are growing up in a time where devices, connectivity, and data are the norm. So much so that my son, at the tender age of three, was interacting with AI before he could even read or write.

We live in an age where our children expect technology to be not just at their fingertips but reacting to their voice. They find it funny to ‘wind up’ Cortana, Siri, and Alexa.

The egg timer no longer measures the time it takes to brush teeth. They now bark orders at Alexa to set a two-minute timer. Often done, with the toothbrush already in their mouth – which Alexa can luckily interpret. Music streams around the entire house with the ‘play everywhere’ function. Much to our detriment at 7am on a Sunday morning!

Unleashing creativity with Minecraft

A young boy plays with Minecraft on a Surface Go in the classroom

A few years ago, my daughter completed a project to create an Anglo-Saxon roundhouse. Her first reaction was to go to Minecraft and build an Anglo-Saxon village. She recorded a five-minute tour, with a commentary about what she’d created.

I was just grateful that my creative skills weren’t called upon yet again. I was able to put away the lollipop sticks, glue, and straw. Maybe she’d just got fed up of my previous efforts and took it upon herself to do something she knows best?

By the way, my daughter is an amazing artist for her age. Self-taught through watching YouTube tutorials, and augmented by technology, she is a unique and creative talent.

Handing over her homework on a USB stick, the school were somewhat bemused. As the other children stand in line with their homemade models, we felt like frauds. She ended up receiving a special award for her ingenuity. She was able to think differently about a project at such a young age, something I am incredibly proud of.

Looking back now, we can certainly credit the way technology has been woven into her upbringing for her creative thinking.

Technology to improve our daily lives

I love technology and the many ways it can improve my life. I’m not a tech person but have worked in IT Services for the last twenty years. In this time, I’ve seen opportunities for both business and personal use become increasingly more intelligent.

My kettle knows when I’m back from the school run. This is particularly handy as it saves those extra minutes waiting for my morning cuppa. Now I’m no longer apologising for being the last one to arrive on the Teams conference call. Online food shopping is now easy with the algorithms using data from my previous shops. The in-built technology which provides me with reminders of previously bought items, often resulting in me remembering to order bin bags.

Instead of feeling scared that the organisations I interact with are ‘following’ me, I appreciate and welcome the intrusion into my lifestyle and habits. I’m still mindful how organisations are using my data. The key to gaining trust in this area is to be transparent. As a consumer of technology, I just want to know what data is being collected. I want to know how it’s being used. And that my details are safe and secure.

We are accountable for the technology we create

We are custodians of the future of technology – both for ourselves and our children.

Satya NadellaI’ve recently finished listening to Satya Nadella’s audiobook, Hit Refresh and found it absolutely compelling. He has incredibly thought-provoking views on AI and machine learning. We hear scaremongering stories about how ‘the machines will take over the world’, and wind up thinking back to the days when first watching The Terminator.

I think Satya says it all when he says that when we create AI and machine learning, we need to follow AI principles. The creators of machine learning and AI need to hold themselves accountable for the technology they create.

We need to make sure that we hold those creators to account. We need to provide those that police the digital world power and laws to protect us and allow us to make the best use of technology.

As I engage with organisations in my working day, I get genuinely excited when discussing the new digital age. We are only just realising the opportunities for organisations, both public and private sector.

How brilliant would it be if my car could communicate back to the dealership to update mileage and diagnostics? The service department could be automatically notified and given access to my calendar apps to see when I’m available so they can book an appointment into my diary without me even having to lift a finger.

Sure, a simplified view with potential security and data protection issues. It’s certainly not in the realms of science fiction. Automating a simple process like this would save me another job on my to-do list. I’m personally totally on board with all the possibilities technology offers to streamline our days.

What does the future look like for our children?

In this new digital age, data, AI, machine learning, and super computers are changing the world at a faster pace than anyone could have predicted twenty years ago. Our children will be performing jobs that don’t even exist yet. Who knows how my kids will be using technology as they enter their world of work?

I’m certain they’ll look back at the way we work now with mocking laughter, as they do now when faced with old technology – yes, to them CD albums are basically the same as looking at a dinosaur!

Instead of fearing technology, we should embrace it, like our children, and be the bold custodians we need to be.

[Originally published on risual.com]

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About the author

Caroline Sutor

Caroline is a Sales Team Lead at risual. She works with the Public Sector industry to help them realise the benefits of technology. Caroline has over twenty years’ experience in the Public Sector industry. She has previously

worked at some large organisation such as Microsoft and Capita. Outside of work, her two children who keep her busy and motivated. She’s passionate about helping children become interested in STEM subjects to develop our future talent pipeline and recently became a STEM ambassador.