How do you view Information Technology? Do you think it's important? Or is it just another job, a few steps up from flipping burgers?


For those of you who don't think it's that important, let's imagine a time when IT just stops working.


If IT Stops


Suddenly your fancy gadgets and gizmos don't work - your coffee machine doesn't dispense anything; your microwave is dead; your MP3 player stops working. You can't purchase anything on your credit card. In fact, you may not be able to purchase anything after the cash drawer runs out. The ATM no longer works. You can't get money from the bank because the bank doesn't know who you are or how much money you have available. You can't make telephone calls or watch TV. You don't even have electricity. Your car either won't start or won't let you go anywhere. The stock market crashes. The hospitals can no longer provide care.


Not Just the Techie Anymore


IT has  incredible impact on the modern world - it arguably is the backbone of the modern world. As a person in the industry, however, I don't think we quite grasp how important our industry is. Frankly, information technology is so ubiquitous that everyone takes it for granted.


There's been a shift in how technology is perceived, but have we also shifted our own opinions to match? We're not just the techie doing incomprehensible things to magically make the incomprehensible machine work better. We are in your centrifuges, watching your uranium. We are in your stock markets, watching your trading. We are in your cars, watching you drive.


The Cost of Errors


I think the first time the potential real-world impact of IT crossed the collective consciousness was the Stuxnet worm. For those of you who don't want to google that again, Stuxnet was designed to attack the Iranian nuclear program by sabotaging the centrifuges used in uranium enrichment. Prior to Stuxnet, most people thought of cyberwarfare as speculative fiction at best, if they thought of it at all. Now cyberattacks are mainstream news stories.


Some more recent examples of technology errors impacting the "real world" are the various stock market glitches. From the US to Japan to Spain and other countries, technical errors in either the software running the stock markets, or the hardware, have negatively impacted the exchanges. The recent Knight Software glitch on the NYSE cost an estimated $440 million. The stock market was down for 44 minutes.


How about the automobile industry? Outside of the factories, it doesn't seem to be a tech heavy industry? You stick a key in the ignition, and the good, old combustion engine starts up and you're traveling from point A to point B. However, GM had to stop selling several car models due to a software problem with OnStar. Renesas, a Japanese automotive chip manufacturer, significantly slowed automobile production in Japan and some US manufacturers due to losses in the 2011 earthquake.


Changing Attitudes


IT is more than the little gadgets and gizmos that make life so fun. We affect the world in big ways that we're just now realizing. When a software error causes $440 million in damages in less than an hour, it's time to start thinking about our jobs differently.