Automation is here. It is here to stay.
A recent report out from the World Economic Forum tells us that we know it too. We know that automation is here, and we are afraid for our jobs. Over 40% of us believe that jobs like ours will be obsolete in the near future. That’s a lot of fear.
So, what can we do?
Of course, we need to upskill. We need training to prepare for this transition that isn’t in the future – it is happening now!
We already know this, but what do we train for. In the report, it is reported that “…(77%) are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain, and 40% of workers have improved their digital skills during the pandemic”. But, what skills do we need to train for?
It isn’t content. As I have written previously, surveys reveal that even before the massive shift to automation that we are currently witnessing, fewer than 10% of the companies surveyed are looking for people with specific content knowledge. What we need to learn are skills. Skills that won’t be made obsolete by AI. As Heather McGowen has recently reported, “…skills generally have a ‘half-life’ of about five years, with more technical skills at just two and a half years”. So, what skills do we need that aren't perishable?
Any skill that can be clearly defined so that it can be taught can be codified. Any activity that can be clearly codified will be automated. Does this mean that we are lost?
I believe in human capital. I believe in human ingenuity. I believe in human potential. I believe in you.
The potential of humans to survive and prosper in this world is incredible. We have survived for as long as we have survived. We will continue to survive and prosper, but we need to learn skills that have been allowed to wither and diminish through our traditional education system. What are these skills?
These skills come in two categories with a lot of overlap. They are people skills (how to deal with each other), and abstract cognitive enablers (thinking skills). There has been much written about the need for people skills, and they are vital. However, my focus is on how to teach and learn abstract cognitive enablers. It isn’t as hard as it sounds, and they are skills that AI is a long way from doing (if it ever can).
Cognitive flexibility is one of these abstract cognitive enablers and is a sub-skill of critical thinking. This is something that has to be explicitly learned, but who teaches it? How many of us can really even define it? It isn’t hard to define it, I just recently wrote an article doing just that. However, cognitive flexibility isn’t taught in a traditional educational setting. In fact, traditional education teaches cognitive inflexibility and reinforces it at every turn. Almost everything about a traditional education (primary school, high school, college, university…) is structured around cognitive inflexibility. Structure, structure, structure – that’s education today.
AI can’t do cognitive flexibility, regardless of what the AI cheerleader might tell you. And, unlike the perishable skills that most people are chasing, cognitive flexibility doesn’t wear out and become obsolete. Cognitive flexibility is a non-perishable skill.
Having developed a method of teaching that can explicitly foster the learning of our abstract cognitive enablers, I can offer you hope. I have to warn you that a small minority of my university students don’t like my classes, “I prefer sitting and having a lecturer read slides to me” (that is an actual quote) because they can’t (or won’t) develop any cognitive flexibility. Students who embrace my classes have said that it is the only class they have ever taken that actually makes them think and they don’t want to learn any other way. They tell me that other university profs tell them that they are expected to think, but after having experienced the real thing, they tell me that nothing else can really compare.
There is a lot of fear that is out there and, in some cases, that fear is becoming hopelessness. It doesn’t have to be that way. I offer classes online using my method that teaches you what these skills are, how you can learn them, and then gives you the opportunity to develop them. This isn’t a gimmick. I was selected as one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices for Education for a reason. It takes time and effort, but at $50 a week for a 10-week cycle, it is money well spent. Have a look (that part is free) at socelor.com.
We need more hope during these dark times – and they are dark times, we can feel it. Don’t just read this and like it. That happens all the time. Read this and share it. We need to give as many people real hope and a way to change their lives as possible. Share this article as widely as you can using as many social media channels as you have.
Let’s make a difference and learn how to do what AI will never be able to do. Let’s make sure we never become obsolete.
Jesse is a world leader in the integration of the science of learning into formal teaching settings. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge and Director at The Academy for the Scholarship of Learning. Huge advocate of the science of learning, he provides people with ideas about how they can use it in their classrooms. Jesse holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wales, Bangor.