Storytelling: After all, the first “computers” wore skirts.

If you tell a semiconductor factory supervisor that soon there will be robots working in the factory, the first question that cross his/her mind will be, “What will happen to my job?”

As an answer, what if you could shift into Storytelling gears and tell Katherine Johnson’s Story.

In the early decades of the 1900s, mathematical and technical calculations were made manually, rather than by machine. This work required a large workforce to compute all the information. With the industrial boom brought on by WWII, organisations like NASA began recruiting women for this work, who they called “computers.” It has even been said that “the first computers wore skirts.”

Katherine Johnson, African-American physicist and mathematician, worked as a “computer” on NASA’s early team from 1953-1958, where she analysed topics such as gust alleviation for aircrafts.

When NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate John Glenn’s first orbit around the earth, officials asked Johnson to verify the computer’s numbers and her reputation for accuracy helped to establish confidence in the new technology. Johnson herself went on to use these new computers to aid in calculations until her retirement in 1986.

Similarly, the value of a factory supervisor will shift as they become valuable as human analysts and strategists, which is vital in the role of validating a machine’s processes.

The question is, are they willing to learn these new skills?

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