Our Modern ‘Jurassic’ World

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” -Dr. Ian Malcom Jurassic Park

When we look at our turbulent, often chaotic, shifting world from a holistic, 30,000 foot systems view, we come to the realization that we must begin to uninsulate ourselves from the cocoon we create, from the buffer bubble that shields and protects us from today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. We have to begin to acknowledge the reverberations rolling out from rapid changes within our ecosphere and how they are affecting our societal systems in a myriad of intense and often unexpected ways.

This is not to say that these changes are necessarily bad, but they do come with ramifications. Which is why the opening quote is so central for considering this shifts we are and will face in today’s fast-moving modern society. When we lose a systems perspective and become so fixated on moving forward, we can be blindsided by the myriad of minor shifts that ultimately gain momentum and cascade into giant tsunamis.

And a tsunami it will be, if we don’t recognize how the current shifts in our systems are upending our current view of education and society in dramatic and exponential ways…

Let’s begin with two examples that have the ability to invoke resounding ramifications upon the future as we currently see it:

In a 2012 Forbes article Andrew MacAfee of MIT sounds the alarm on the “acceleration of digitized labor,” one of which many of us have failed to notice. In which he shares that “technology is being injected into the economy at such a staggering rate that there is a decreasing need for human workers.” For which he adds, “the comparative advantage of human labor over machines is washing away before our eyes.” He even points to the work of a company called Narrative Science and their ability to actually write stories from an algorithm (which has only become possible in the last few years). So the question that he puts forth to us is, “So what are we to do, as more and more jobs are lost to this entirely new species of highly skilled machine?”

And it doesn’t end there…

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne share that they, “estimate that 47% of all U.S. jobs were ‘at-risk’ of being computerized over the next twenty years.” They are not talking 5 or even 10 years down the line…rather, just 2 years! The article focused on how they are now teaching robots to learn how to cook (which you may or may not determine to be a big deal), except that the robots “are learning how to cook and follow human instructions, instead of needing to be programmed for each specific task.” In fact, they were creating what they called a “robotics knowledge service.” From which they ask the same question that Andrew MacAfee puts forth, “As machines increasingly perform complex tasks once thought to be safely reserved for humans, the question has become harder to shrug off: What jobs will be left for people?”

It is these advances, these shifts, and these questions, that ultimately require us to uninsulate ourselves from the cocoon that has shielded us from a society that is moving and changing at an exponential rate. The definition of college and career ready is changing right before our very eyes.

And it begs the question…

How are we preparing our children, our students, to be agile and adaptable enough to create their own momentum and velocity to keep pace in a world that is very different than the world we grew up in?


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