The Gartner Predictions are out for another year and their latest prognostications tell of one in three jobs being replaced by machines in the next ten years. If this seems like the stuff of science fiction, consider that the technology for that to occur already exists. Right now. As robots become more multipurpose, we’re upon the cusp of a revolution in robotics. Just as the multi-purpose desktop computer became affordable and sparked a revolution in computation and electronics, autos and versatile robots will do the same.
For a bit of perspective, check out Humans Need not Apply by CGP Grey.
The question that’s been screaming at me for the last 48 hours since reading and watching is what does this mean for education?
In light of this, are we doing enough to prepare our students for this society?
In the last few years, the disruptors in education have taken centre stage. Ken Robinson lead the charge with his musings on the industrial model of schooling and the need for a student-centred focus on creativity. Forward thinkers such as Seth Godin added to the call for an overhaul to the education system. Sugata Mitra even won the TED Prize by thinking up a new way of doing education by combining big questions, student collaboration and the internet. Whether you agree with these well known change agents or not (and by the way, many good thinkers oppose their views that school is broken), clearly adaptations are needed in the system.
Creativity shines through in this movement and rightly so. It’s become evident that young people will need to be creative, dynamic lifelong learners to succeed in a world where technology is ubiquitous and the rate of change is exponential. So, if you watched the above video, did it hit you too?, that machines are becoming ever better at what we might term ‘creativity?’. Potentially, they can be so much better at it if you view creativity as a synthesis of information, combining information in new ways. After all, computers have big data that wetware just can’t match. Their ability to find relationships while holding big data is unmatched. Creativity isn’t magic and its only a matter of time before its clear that to be creative is not what makes us uniquely human.
So let’s take stock. Creativity will not be unique to humans. Many jobs will be replaced by machines. Do the unemployed become a displaced people? Or will it usher in a time where people have the time to wonder again, a new age where the individual can focus on nature, community and universal laws?
As much as I think we’re on the right track with our ‘new’ focus on student-centred lifelong learning and creativity, I wonder if it’s enough. I’m not sure that creativity is enough. I’m not even sure if that’s what anybody is saying. We definitely need it. We definitely need to be questioning, critical thinkers.
It’s the lack of creative and critical thought that has allowed ignorant man to be a cancer to the Earth in recent centuries. Technology thus far has mostly accelerated our ability to destroy our environments and each other. However, recent times have seen some groups using technologies to improve the world, including global corporations such as Intel.
I don’t yet know where education should go next but if it’s a shining light that gives dogma, ignorance and greed no place to lie, it will be taking humanity in the right direction. For that occur, let’s make sure we’re looking at the whole person.