In 2001, a New York Times article declared that all science was computer science because neuroscience, anthropology, physics and other scientific disciplines were beginning to test digital frameworks of systems instead of observing the systems themselves. The assertion may have been hyperbolic at the time, but it is easy to defend today. The impact of computer science is undeniable. One has only to look around to see digital technologies inspiring innovation, powering entrepreneurship, fueling invention, streamlining research and driving societal change all over the world.
Many factors motivate people to study computer science. For example, the promise of wealth attracts some professionals to this discipline. The Master of Science in Computer Science, or MSCS, came second when Forbes ranked graduate degrees by earning potential. Many others pursue computer science degrees to enhance their prospects. Almost four in 10 job listings in computer science require candidates to have a master’s degree at minimum. And some aspiring computer scientists find their way to this discipline not to launch lucrative careers but because they want to change the world for the better. Technology is advancing more quickly than ever before, and it is becoming increasingly evident that computer science has the potential to benefit humanity in significant ways.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in computer science, you have probably considered the question ‘Why is computer science important?’ However, you may not have thought much about how technology can empower positive change on a global scale. Read on to learn how computer science is making the world a better place in the present and how enrolling in a computer science program like the Online MS in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence Specialization at SMU Lyle School of Engineering can help you build a smarter, safer, more equitable future.
Seven Ways Computer Science is Making the World a Better Place
Computer science’s impact on the world is far-reaching, and it can be challenging to capture the depth and breadth of its influence. However, the Association of Computing Machinery sums it up succinctly when it asserts that “if you want to make a positive difference in the world, study computing.” Computer science drives innovation in scientific disciplines as diverse as vaccine research, environmental science and quantum physics. It also shapes education, philanthropy, healthcare and how we work, play and connect in myriad ways explored in more detail below.
1. Computer Science Facilitates Communication
Thanks to advances like email, social media and live video, it is easier to connect with people all across the globe, making the world feel more connected and more accessible than ever before. People can communicate with others, regardless of distance. Doing so cultivates a more cohesive, global community and mindset in government, science and business. What happens on other continents feels relatable. Thanks to social media, politicians and other influential figures who were once unreachable are now easy to contact. Technology also lets us learn about new cultures, stay in touch with faraway family, share ideas, make friends with people in other countries and shop without geographical obstacles getting in the way.
2. Computer Science Makes Education Better and More Accessible
COVID-19 also drove home the importance of online education when the pandemic forced schools around the world to go virtual. However, even before the pandemic, access to flexible online courses at both the high school and college levels increased for students who had limited access due to finances, ability, location or circumstance. Notably, thanks to a range of assistive technologies and software systems, students with disabilities can access educational resources like never before. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute highlighted developments in robotics, clean tech, artificial intelligence and administrative platforms helping schools address structural challenges and inequity in schools.
3. Computer Science Advances Scientific Research
Computers can analyze data and identify patterns more efficiently than humans because they quickly clean and sort through enormous quantities of information. Consequently, scientists now rely heavily on digital platforms to learn more about the world with fewer resources. Digital systems in biology create original experiments, compare genome sequences and classify cells — all without the intervention of humans. Astronomers simulate supernova explosions, capture light from objects at the edges of space and create 3D astronomical images. In healthcare, nanorobots allow for targeted drug delivery, while advanced informatics systems simplify the recruiting process of participants in clinical research studies and streamline the way researchers read results.
4. Computer Science Helps Us Prepare for and Respond to Disasters
Computer science drives the development of technologies organizations and governments use to keep people safe when disaster strikes. Computer science can help predict extreme weather events like tsunamis, tornados and hurricanes so that people can prepare for and minimize their effects. Digital technologies also help researchers predict the trajectory of dangerous comets passing close to the earth, model the impact of artificial disasters like oil spills and mitigate the effects of outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Covid-19. Digital communication technology, for example, allowed many people to continue working without interruption during the coronavirus pandemic. Computer science students at SMU also supported the development of COVID-19 treatments using custom digital systems. In 2020, Lyle’s School of Engineering students and faculty formed a team of volunteers to develop a search engine that would give scientists access to a massive text database of research into other coronaviruses.
5. Computer Science Fuels Philanthropy
Nonprofit organizations already leverage numerous digital platforms and applications to raise awareness, connect with supporters and crowdsource funds. Now new technological innovations create fresh opportunities for nonprofits to amplify reach and impact. Accenture Labs, for instance, helped the Child In Need Institute create a digital solution to trafficking and child marriage that leverages mobile, data analytics and cloud technologies to connect vulnerable adolescents and women in need of health, nutrition, education and protection with appropriate resources. Charity: Water partnered with the technology and design firm AKQA to raise awareness of water access issues through empathy. Together, they created an interactive chatbot that simulates an Ethiopian girl who walks for hours each day to find clean water for her family.
6. Computer Science Makes People More Productive
Digital systems have increased productivity in many fields. For example, advancements in robotics have made manufacturing more efficient by streamlining and automating production processes. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have sped up information analysis in data science. Tools such as shared virtual workspaces, video conferencing and intranets allow employees to collaborate more effectively on distributed teams. AI, data science, intelligent sensors and other technologies boost farmers’ yields. Many tasks that used to take hours, even days, now take seconds and require little to no human intervention. Although it’s not definitive that computer technology is responsible for the growth in productivity across all industries, it is clear that technologies developed by computer scientists help people accomplish more in less time and energy.
7. Computer Science Is Helping Humanity Build a More Equitable Society
Digital technologies can level the societal playing field by increasing access to everything from information and education to healthcare and career opportunities. McKinsey reports that mobile connectivity, in particular, has given millions of people around the world access to goods, services and information that was once out of reach. Computer science fuels innovations that reduce the costs of essential goods, improving material living conditions across the globe. It supports research underpinning initiatives that expand access to nutritious food, clean up pollution, increase healthcare equity and lengthen the human lifespan. Digital learning platforms help people from various racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds hone in-demand professional skills, and assistive technologies let individuals with disabilities live more independently.
How Pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science Will Position You to Change the World
WIRED wrote in 2013 that “everything is becoming a branch of computer science.” While that assertion remains hyperbolic even in the digital age, computer science plays an ever-larger role in the human experience. Whatever challenges you want to solve, digital technologies can help. Today, healthcare workers use AI to make patient care safer and streamline surgery using robotic systems. In finance, computer science is disrupting asset management and making financial services more widely available in the process. Education professionals use digital learning platforms to make curricula more engaging, more accessible and more effective.
The future of opportunity in computer science has no boundaries because computer science skills are highly transferable. Pursuing a computer science master’s can help you make a bigger difference in your current role or transition into another industry where you can do the most good. As the Association for Computing Machinery puts it, “computing is one of those fields where it is almost impossible to predict what will happen next. This is why we cannot even begin to imagine all the ways that you can make a contribution to it, and it can make your life’s work exciting and real.”
Is SMU Lyle’s Online MSCS-AI Program the Right One for You?
After reading this far, you may wonder if a computer science master’s is worth it. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Humanity’s reliance on computer science continues to increase because digital technologies offer powerful solutions to many of society’s most pressing challenges. That means the job outlook for master’s in computer science graduates will likely get stronger, making now the best time to enroll in a computer science master’s program.
The benefits of enrolling in a flexible, part-time computer science master’s program are numerous. Computer science majors in SMU’s online master’s program don’t have to relocate to get a world-class computer science education or take time off work to pursue a graduate degree. They collaborate with a diverse group of talented and accomplished peers, including information security and cybersecurity analysts, network engineers, database administrators, systems analysts, software developers, software engineers, application programmers and web developers. Lyle School of Engineering instructors are AI specialists and computer scientists who regularly engage with real-world applications of intelligent systems and emerging theories driving innovation in the field. Distance learners benefit from the Department of Computer Science’s reputation for world-class research and for graduating computer science leaders.
Most importantly, SMU’s online MSCS-AI offers an exceptional deep-dive into computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence. Lyle School of Engineering is a leader in technical education, and its computer science courses can give you everything you need – from in-demand computer science skills to credentials and connections – to make an immediate impact using the latest computer systems and AI technologies.
Apply online today and in just 20 months, you will be ready to shape the future of your field.