Meet Root, Harvard’s Plan to Teach Kids to Code

Coding is the language of technology. Jobs in the tech industry, especially coding jobs, are growing at around double the rate of most other types of employment. Harvard University has determined that the way to get more people into the programming and coding fields is to get them while they are young. Their strategy is Root, a small “Roomba” looking robot that can be programmed to do all sorts of interesting things. It was designed for consumers with fun in mind, and this sets it apart from most other educational robots. Just as the Lego brick sparked the imagination of generations of engineers and architects, Harvard wants to spark the creativity of future programmers with Root.

The high demand for coders and the Root robot is an excellent example of the market’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In recent years, many cities have seen a proliferation in automation due to minimum wage increases and other costs of labor going up. This generates an incentive for creative engineers to code new and impressive ways to get things done more cheaply. We need these young people’s future ideas and innovations to expand the economy.

Not everyone would agree with this analysis though. There are some who see technology as a creator of unemployment. They point out all of the jobs lost because of that automation. If someone builds a burger flipping machine and sells it to McDonald’s, all of the burger-flippers who currently work there will be out of a job. This is true on the surface, but that doesn’t take into consideration all of the new jobs created by these machines. Someone needs to design, maintain, and manufacture these robots. Not only that, but the extra profits saved by the businesses can go into new expansions or other job-creating activities. There are even bonuses for the displaced burger-flippers: Assuming that burger flipping is not the lifelong ambition of the displaced burger-flipper, the economy expands to allow for more service-related jobs that are not necessary to live. For instance, think of all the people that are employed by a blockbuster movie today, and that, only 100 years ago, the economy couldn’t have supported such a massive entertainment industry.

Henry Hazlitt wrote a very interesting article about machinery and jobs called the Curse of The Machinery. Hazlitt was a journalist and economist in the mid-20th century. In the Curse of Machinery, he wrote about how silly it is to believe that technology creates unemployment.

“Among the most viable of all economic delusions is the belief that machines on net balance create unemployment. Destroyed a thousand times, it has risen a thousand times out of its own ashes as hardy and vigorous as ever. Whenever there is long-continued mass unemployment, machines get the blame anew. This fallacy is still the basis of many labor union practices. The public tolerates these practices because it either believes at bottom that the unions are right, or is too confused to see just why they are wrong.

The belief that machines cause unemployment, when held with any logical consistency, leads to preposterous conclusions. Not only must we be causing unemployment with every technological improvement we make today, but primitive man must have started causing it with the first efforts he made to save himself from needless toil and sweat.”

Harvard is doing a great thing for children by exposing them to coding. Coders will create the amazing technology of the future. New technology creates jobs, expands the economy, and frees people up from doing low-skilled jobs and allows them to pursue their dreams.

For more information on Root: http://www.wired.com/2016/04/harvard-built-robot-teach-kids-code/