Change is invariably the result and objective of all revolutions – peaceful or bloody. This is also the case when technologies disrupt long held businesses and decades-old sectors. This is what we are now witnessing on a global scale when it comes to pioneering technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and 3D Printing. These breakthroughs are set to change the world as never before and humanity needs to be equipped in a manner unprecedented in history.
In a 2009 essay written by economist Stephen Moore for the Wall Street Journal, he describes a famous interaction with Nobel Prize economist Milton Friedman. “At one of our dinners, Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built.
He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. When he asked why there were so few machines on the site, the government bureaucrat explained: "You don't understand. This is a jobs generation programme." To which Milton replied: "Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If its jobs you want, you should give these workers spoons, not shovels."
Seven billion humans inhabit Mother Earth and a vast majority need to be employed to earn their daily bread. Paradoxically, technology that is making our personal lives easier is leaving a huge wake of joblessness and empty factories. And responsive governments are taking notice. Reskilling and aligning curricula to the jobs of the future is widespread in western economies. These new skills or NEW HUMANITIES is what is the need of the hour in India as well.
India’s leading software body – NASSCOM (National Association of Software & Service Companies) has identified 55 new job roles and 155 new-age skills that will be urgently required in the future which should offer direction to graduates entering the workforce in large numbers. Already a massive shift is happening: learning is now automated and available 24X7 to those who can afford the same. Top-end lectures are on YouTube and online coaching is the new darling of venture capitalists.
Students should skill themselves on Virtual Reality, the Internet of Things, Big Data Analysis, Robotic Process Automation, Cloud Computing and grasping the tools that make Social Media an effective ally in promoting their careers.
The astonishing growth and evolution of the Internet has made technical knowledge available at the fingertips of all who want it. However, for generation next technical knowledge should be combined with a deep understanding of humanity. I describe this combination is the ‘New Humanities’, a special type of ‘social ergonomics’ that will soon become critical to the definition and development of societies.
The education sector too must pick up the baton and implement these 21st century technologies. The fact that we live in a knowledge economy should spur professors and lecturers to inspire confidence in students and parents, and the focus of education must shift from theoretical understanding of concepts to teaching practical application skills in live projects that will generate jobs of the future.
So, how do we change the Education Sector to include such learning? A rough blueprint should include these three characteristics:
Identifying Machines from Humans: As we adapt to the unfolding technologies like AI, VR and 3D printing, sometime in the future, it will be very difficult to distinguish between a human and a robot. Therefore, just as people in the age-groups of 45-50 learned crossing roads in Kinder Garden, differentiating a human from a humanoid will be taught early on.
Cognitive Abilities: Empathy, Creativity and Sensitivity will be the key skill sets differentiating the winners from the losers in the future. Machines can’t mimic or `learn’ these talents and humans will be better placed should they start to put them in practice and teach their young. Four out of the top five most empathetic companies spent more than $1billion (Rs. 6,500 crore) on R&D in 2015. They are Microsoft, Facebook, Tesla Motors and Google.
Spirituality. I trust that the relevance of faith and belief in determining our behaviour, values, and choices will remain central to humanity – despite (or, even, because of) our increasingly reliance on machines. For example, while the popular perception is that only backpackers visit India, quite to the contrary, a number of people, both young and old, from around the world and from within India are finding peace at ashrams across the country.