What Is Our Future Narrative?

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“We cannot teach our kids to compete with machines who are smarter – we have to teach our kids something unique.  In this way, thirty years later, kids will have a chance.  Everything we teach should be different from machines.  If we do not change the way we teach, thirty years from now we will be in trouble.”  -Jack Ma founder of Alibaba

In many ways, the goalposts have shifted…

What has served us well in the past, is far from being enough to serve us well in the future.  Lack of awareness, and/or inability to see this shift, often keeps us focused on chasing that which has, or will quickly become obsolete.

While basic literacy and numeracy skills remain imperative and foundational to future success, they are moving farther and farther away from serving as the essential skills needed for success in the knowledge economy, of what many refer to as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

And for that reason, we have to deepen our understanding of what changes…and what remains the same.

As author Yuval Noah Harari warns, “Artificial Intelligence will trigger the rise of the useless class.”  For which he adds, “Most of what people learn in school in in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50.  If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be relevant to what is happening, people have to reinvent themselves again and again, and faster and faster.”

Which is becoming the new normal, especially as companies are finding themselves disrupted quicker and more often.  Requiring the kickstarting of new careers and making ongoing upskilling and reskilling basic professional requirements for remaining employed in the 21st century.  As an example, in response to the current digital disruption occurring, a variety of statistics reveal that 52% of Fortune 500 companies have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or have ceased to exist, since the year 2000.  It is these kinds of disruptions, which then also have both societal and systems affects.  The declining lifespans of our organizations have and will continue to have systems affects on the world of world.  As shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The average worker currently holds ten different jobs before the age of forty, and that today’s youngest workers will hold 12 to 15 jobs in their lifetime.”  Which then requires ongoing adaptability, agility, and learnability of those entering the workforce to just remain relevant to the ever-shifting and changing world of work.

The dynamics of the digital disruption, have had and will continue to have far-reaching systems impact on our society, from government, to business, and education.  We are going to need to build the awareness and insight that allows us to become much more proactive, than our current reactive in our stance to these changes.  As Paul Daugherty, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for Accenture shares, “In our business, we talk about emerging technologies and how they impact society.  We’ve never seen a technology move as fast as Artificial Intelligence has to impact society and technology.  This is by far the fastest moving technology that we’ve ever tracked in terms of its impact and we’re just getting started.”

And it is not just Artificial Intelligence’s impact on the world of work, as Tristan Harris, Co-Founder and Executive Director for the Center for Humane Technology adds, “By allowing algorithms to control a great deal of what we see and do online, such designers have allowed technology to become a kind of ‘digital Frankenstein,’ steering billions of people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”

As we design our way forward, and as artificial intelligence and automation become much more prevalent and ingrained in our everyday professional and personal lives, we have to become more aware of how these systems will have great affect on our children and their future.  It will necessitate equipping our children and students with the necessary and needed skillsets that allow them access and entry into more equitable, ethical, and human-centered future.

Not only must we provide our students with the foundational educational skills of the past, we must also engage them with skills and skillsets that will best serve them effectively in the future, which would include the ability to:

  • Efficiently network, utilize a variety of platforms for knowledge building, creating ongoing pipelines of learning and idea flows
  • Display cultural, social, and emotional intelligence
  • Engage innovative, creative, critical, and complex thinking and problem-solving
  • To connect ideas and information quickly
  • Show greater initiative and proactiveness
  • Model and growth and exponential mindset
  • Utilize strategic decision-making
  • Strong use of communication skills, both written and oral (Purple People)
  • Collaborative skills and ability to work well with others in team environments, both internal and external of the organization
  • Technology skills, deeper understanding of its uses and how to move from consumption to creation (computer science)

In many ways, we have to be able to prepare our children and students with a greater sense of learnability, agility, and adaptability for their future, in response to the profound shifts we are witnessing, and in response to the current and future digital disruption that is coming, spurred on by heightened levels of automation and an increasing power of artificial intelligence.

It is difficult to ignore the dystopian, jobless future narrative that seems to be endlessly forecasted for the future.  We hear the stories of the coming of automation, augmentation, and the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence.  However, we must never forget that we are the current creators and authors of this narrative, a narrative that our children and students will continue to write.  A narrative that is both ours and theirs to manufacture.  We must never forget that we have the ability to design our future, and it is up to us to design that future in a way that is to be more equitable, ethical and human-centered.

“Part of why predicting the ending to our AI [artificial intelligence] story is so difficult is because this isn’t just a story about machines.  It’s also a story about human beings, people with free wills that allow them to make their own choices and to shape their own destinies.  Our AI future will be created by us, and it will reflect the choices we make and the actions we take.”  -Kai-Fu Lee via AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

 

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