Before I answer this question, which is hard to answer, I will tell a little story. Steve Jobs and I, in deciding to start Apple, had a purpose. We talked, and we said “We would like to build a technology that will someday make blind people equivalent to people who can see.”
And, after all this time, you have to admit that we succeeded, because everywhere you go, at a train station for example, people are looking at their machines, and they are blind to the world. That’s a joke.
As far as what you should study today to be in line for tomorrow, there isn’t one answer. All people are different. Society requires a lot of talent in many, many disciplines to work functionally and smoothly. So, it’s wrong to say everyone should be a certain digital engineer, everyone should be analogue engineer. Someone should be a writer, some people should make music, other people should study chemistry or physics because we need to develop new devices. There is no one right answer.
All people are different. Society requires a lot of talent in many, many disciplines to work functionally and smoothly. Someone should be a writer, some people should make music, other people should study chemistry or physics.
You can look at where the jobs are disappearing. And they are not necessarily disappearing because of smartness of technology ‒ only a little bit. It’s largely the mechanics. We’re in the fossil fuel age. We have more energy available per person that we could’ve ever imagined and we can make huge machines called robots that assemble huge things like cars. And those used to be human jobs. So, you can look where human jobs are going away, and say “Maybe these are categories to ignore”.
But whatever you choose to do with life, you choose to be a digital engineer, because every company is modifying the way that it interacts with the public, with other businesses. Every company is going digital. If you choose to be a digital person or you choose to be a person that understands how to assemble small devices, even watches with your own hands, you should try to be one of the best in the world. That should be your goal. How can I be the best in the world? Try to be better than those around you. Think of other people that would solve the same problem, do the same thing, maybe invent the same circuit or device or write the same program. And I have written it. And pretty much a million people are trained with the same training, the same books, the same lecturers as myself, and they would turn out something equivalent. What can I do that’s a little special? Go back a second time, rethink things. Is there a way I can do it better? If you love what you are doing, you will become one of the best in the world.
I, myself, love mathematics. When I was in high school, we would be assigned to do the odd problems at the end of a chapter from number 1 to 37. They would do the odd problems for homework. I would do every single problem all the way to number 50. I would do every one and any extra assignments I could because I loved it. Not because I got a better grade. When I designed circuits that led up a long path leading up to Apple computer, I had reputation for thinking out the most optimal design with the fewest parts. That was my way of being better than other people. And I would come up with tricks that were in my head and not in any books.
Everyone should pursue the disciplines at the university level that they are getting the most happiness from, that they feel they are the best and will have the most to contribute, whether or not it looks like it’s a guide to their future employment.
We are taught techniques to use building blocks, and how those building blocks are built up into products, maybe a final program. But we are taught to create on our own, to have an idea in our head. The neuron connection is virtual, and how do you make something real out of it?
As an engineer, I never wanted to do what’s already in the books. A million people would be doing the same thing as me. I always think “Is there a different way, a better way, alternative approach?” If something took me 78 digital chips to build, I would go to sleep every night thinking “Is there a way to cut it down to 76 chips or 75 chips? Is there a way I could do less?” And I came up with a talent not of knowing how to reduce them but the talent of how to come up with a way to reduce them. And it made me stand out and I had a big reputation for that. And I was proud of it. You’re proud of what you’re good at.
So, everyone should pursue the disciplines at the university level that they are getting the most happiness from, that they feel they are the best and will have the most to contribute, whether or not it looks like it’s a guide to their future employment.