Today computers have become almost as commonplace as televisions and teens use them for a variety of tasks, including researching on the web, communication via email, instant messaging and blogging, and writing papers, all without an inkling of how to program. Computers have become a commodity and they don't see an additional value in knowing how and why they work any more than they need to know physics to drive their cars.Yesterday IBM's David Ferrucci gave a talk at Northwestern on the challenges of creating Watson to play Jeopardy. The large lecture room was packed mostly with undergrads. Ferrucci didn't disappoint showing the challenges of Watson with lots of examples keeping the talk not too technical. Ferrucci will give a similar talk as an FCRC plenary speaker or you can watch a short version here.
My 12-year old daughter Molly came and enjoyed the talk and insisted on meeting Ferrucci afterwards just to tell him how cool Watson was.
The number of CS majors has grown dramatically in recent years at Northwestern and other universities. Bank of America runs ads on their ATMs that understands peoples checks ("How do they do that?") and Ford on how its Focus parks itself. And our local high school next year is teaching computer science again.