I really enjoyed this succinct interview between Kevin Kelly, the serial tech writer and future thinker, and Steve Glaveski Co-Founder of Collective Campus, which resonated with many of the perspectives that are also emerging for us.
On AI and robots
Kevin Kelly does think that over the next 20-30 years there will be more job opportunities than job destruction. AI will refine all jobs. If you think of jobs as bundles of tasks, then AI and robots will just take over the parts that are focused on our efficiency. However, there are many important exercises that are not about ‘efficiency’ such as innovation. In a way they are messy and the antithesis of ‘efficiency.’ Also we still – generally speaking – like to spend time with other humans. In fact, AI might well raises the value of those areas where people skills are more important. It might be difficult to imagine some of these shifts as we currently value analytical and rationale tasks above compassion etc so much.
I concur with him that its going to be very difficult to forecast exactly the jobs of the future. And they might well sound ridiculous to someone alive today. Imagine telling a farmer 50 to 100 years ago about your job as a ‘social media strategist.’
Kelly believes that learning how to learn will be the focus going forwards. So I guess that this means that it will be even more tailor-made than in the past. Second, he thinks that there will be more value on asking the right questions. This is the source of insight, innovation and scientific breakthrough. I cannot agree enough with this. I am a long term zen practitioner and zen is all about asking big questions, which then serve to open your mind to new possibilities. Answers actually close it down. Third, he thinks that education should include some form of techno-literacy. How does technology work? How do you decide whether to adopt particular tech.
Kevin Kelly has been disappointed by the fact that education is changing at a glacial pace. And he’s not so optimistic vs. other industries. He might be right . But this is the one area where I disagree a little: I am more optimistic. In terms of higher education, new universities and learning centres are already appearing from Singularity University in Palo Alto to THNK in Europe. Emerging Future Institute is also considering making inroads in this space. I think there will be a complete revolution in teaching and many institutions will appear and disappear. Elsewhere I think that the birth of online education and MOOCs is very encouraging, meaning that low income students in emerging countries are able to take courses in quantum physics at MIT! And we are just a few years into this. The implications are enormous.
They spoke about large listed companies’ focus on efficiency which is something I have been exploring for the last few years. Kevin Kelly has long said that the more successful companies are, the more imprisoned they are and unlikely they are to be involved in the next disruption – even the googles and amazons of today perhaps. The new areas of disruption will generally be low margin and small markets today. Many small start ups will be attracted to them but they will be unsuccessful. But a small number will succeed in this ‘death zone’ and topple a monopolist.
In Silicon Valley, employers often look for a different type of employee than the large corporations who value university certificates. A valley company might put a value of 1 on the university degree but then put 10 on other experiences. I think that other employers around the world will move in this direction.
What I found very optimistic was their discussion about the opportunities ahead. Its very easy to be quite fearful or anxious about the future. Many are worried about losing their jobs and even those in entrepreneurial hotbeds like California are anxious because of the pressure to keep up or be at the forefront of change. Kevin Kelly said that looking at AI etc on a longer term view, there are no ‘experts’ alive today. Its not too late to gain expertise and insights because everything is changing so quickly. This is a central message of Emerging Future: in periods of immense change, it can be quite easy it some senses to make a contribution.
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