Distinguishable From Magic

Technology is reshaping every single aspect of our lives, from how we travel through a city to how we book our vacations. And it's definitely changed how business is done.
I WAS BRIEFLY IN AMSTERDAM a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, I missed out on the launch of this project: the development of a fleet of autonomous boats that can transport goods and people through the city’s waterways. These “roboats” also can become temporary floating infrastructures, such as self-assembling bridges and concert stages, and deploy environmental sensors that gather data about water quality. The project is the first to come out of a new collaboration between MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. You can read details at senseable.mit.edu/roboat/.

If you’re more interested in a water adventure on the other end of the spectrum, you could look into Sailo, an online sharing platform that matches luxury yachts and crews with people who want to rent them. The company debuted a couple of years ago and currently acts as a peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace in New York and Florida. Think of it as Airbnb on the ocean.

What these two wildly different examples have in common, besides their nautical theme, is that technology makes them possible. Technology is reshaping every single aspect of our lives, from how we travel through a city to how we book our vacations. And it’s definitely changed how business is done. That means business schools have to teach students the power of technology, whether they’re embedding it in their products or relying on it to gather customer data.

In this issue, we look at some of the ways business schools are teaching the tech. In “The Inhuman Touch,” professors from Michigan State and the National University of Singapore describe how they collaborate with software providers to give students a glimpse of machine learning in action.
In “Into the Breach,” cyber experts from Oklahoma State and St. Edwards University explain all the ways today’s systems and products can be hacked and how b-school professors can arm students with the knowledge to fight back. In “MIT Sloan Tests Out Mobile Telepresence Technology,” we explore remote learning via telepresence. And in Your Turn, Peter Rossbach of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management argues that today’s business graduates must learn technology right along with their functional disciplines.

For b-school leaders daunted by the idea of teaching students to use tools that some of their faculty don’t completely understand, we’ve put together “Teaching Tech to Teachers,” about some of the ways universities are training their professors in this complex field.

As for myself, I confess I’m happiest with technology when it’s so smooth, so invisible that it lives up to Arthur C. Clarke’s prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But tomorrow’s business graduates will need to know how the magic works, whether they’re designing the next great sharing app or figuring out the best uses for a self-driving boat. Or, indeed, when they’re considering almost any aspect of business at all.