ERIC SEEVER WAS working at his desk by the window amidst an array of leafy plants and bright flowers—his home office—overlooking Manhattan’s expansive Third Avenue, computer screen lit, surrounded by papers with notebook spread out, when the buzzer rang. Though in his mid-seventies he was robust and looked younger than his years, with a trim figure and short salt-and-pepper hair.
“Hi, Grandpa, am I disturbing?” Marco asked tentatively as Eric opened the door to greet him.
“Marco, you know you’re never disturbing,” he replied warmly, giving his grandson a big hug. “I’m always glad to see you. That’s why I gave you a set of keys, so you know you’re always welcome.”
“Well, I just like to make sure so I’m not disturbing in case you’re working.”
“I’m interrupted all the time—that’s part of how it happens! Oh, my goodness, you’re really growing. How tall are you now?”
Marco’s dark brown hair, parted on the right, fell gracefully over his forehead giving his boyish good looks a sheepish expression that emphasizes his broad shoulders and graceful lanky frame.
“You’re taller now than your father and myself!” Eric exclaimed, hugging him again affectionately, “What have they been putting in your food?”
Marco laughed, “It could be the swimming team. Makes me ferociously hungry.”
“Come in, I’ll get you something to drink, and you know that means apple or cranberry juice!”
“Actually, grandpa, I’d love a cup of coffee.”
“Fine—I also have some of those raisin muffins you like, with some honey—much better for you than butter and processed sugar. What have you been up to?”
Marco followed his grandfather into the kitchen, “I wanted to talk with you, because… I’m rather confused by all the decisions I have to make about college. Mom and Dad try to help me but are very busy, and along with Mrs. Steen, my guidance counselor, there’s so much I can’t figure out. Reports on TV and online keep saying automation is taking away jobs, and that work will be obsolete, but that seems silly, don’t you think?”
“Well, Marco, society is always changing, and it’s true that many professions, including lawyers and even the medical profession, will continue to be greatly impacted by computers and automation,” Eric explained as he started brewing the coffee and taking the muffins out of the refrigerator, noticing Marco staring at him intently.
“Grandpa, the idea of a jobless society seems like misinformation or brain-washing, doesn’t it? I mean, who’s going to solve the pollution of the oceans, catastrophic weather, what to do with all the accumulated nuclear waste, or the water shortages throughout the world—or the long-neglected infrastructure and huge refugee problem? A lot of my classmates aren’t planning on college, given how expensive it is and the shortage of jobs, but there’s so much work that has to be done!” A frown creased Marco’s brow.
“Well, I’m glad you realize that and are thinking so realistically about the future. I know that many experts think a liberal arts education may be a dinosaur, though I’m glad I had one. You did terrifically on your college entrance exams. Your math and science scores were off the charts, so you should have no trouble getting a scholarship.”
Looking puzzled, Marco blurted out, “But I’m not sure what kind of be engineer I want to be, or how exactly it fits into AI and Environmental Studies or climatology. Science has to find a way to engineer the environment to prevent so many hurricanes and wild fires that keep happening—too many species of animals and insects have already been wiped out and microplastics are everywhere. I know that artificial intelligence cuts across all areas of computer science and involves much more than robotics… There’s so much work that needs to be done—” He paused.
“For sure—and I’m glad you understand that,” Eric replied, trying to surmise where Marco was heading.