AI FOR HUMANKIND COVER STORY:
attitude implies that we will have to start looking differently at how we will design and manage our work floor in the future. Second, it also suggests that we may need to revise the way we educate our children.
With respect to the future of work, one big movement that has been started, and is accelerated due to COVID-19, is the push for employees to reskill themselves. On one hand, this is quite a normal response, because especially the pandemic has pushed organisations and society to adopt AI platforms more quickly in their operation. As such, employees need to be at least somewhat tech savvy, so they understand the developments that are taking place (“Why is it taking place and what does it mean for my job?”). However, we run the danger that these reskilling programs are pushing the hard, rational side of the job too much. That is, people may come to think that, in the world of machine, we all need to become coders and understand the new technologies as well as any data scientist. I know many people who are afraid of the future because of these concerns. And this is a problem, because if this were the case, then we would indeed be building a world that will fit machines best. In line with this trend, universities and societies seem to think it’s almost a necessity that we want everyone to think like an engineer or a computer scientist. And this brings me to my second point.
The problem with this trend that I see is that humanities, social sciences and humanistic perspectives are increasingly being seen as a luxury thing to study, because it does not add to the “machine” skills we want people to pursue. If this trend were actually to materialise, then we would not only be reskilling, but also deskilling our people in their ability to be human and possess the unique qualities that define us as humans, such as perspective-taking, seeing and reflecting on the big picture, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and creativity. And, in my view, this is very much reflected in the education of our children. At a young age, we are monitoring and evaluating our children on cognitive dimensions judged to be important for future (business and tech) careers and trained in ways that emphasise rationality, consistency and
Humanities, social sciences and humanistic perspectives are increasingly being seen as a luxury thing to study, because it does not add to the “machine” skills we want people to pursue.
avoiding failures. My daughter was evaluated at age 2 by her teachers, who showed concern if she did not score well on any of those dimensions. The whole culture was breeding a concern that kids would lag behind if they were slower in their development, as if they already had to meet certain (kid’s) KPIs. When I mentioned that she is exposed to three languages at home and, as such, her brain at that moment was probably a chaos of which she would make sense over the years, meaning that I was not worried yet about her development, I was met with a certain disbelief. Under such a regime, children are kept away as much as possible from experiencing any failures, while excessive emphasis is placed on the need to be as perfect as possible and as soon as possible. It brings with it a pretty mechanistic approach to creativity, everyone doing more or less the same in a structured environment, as the teachers were using fixed metrics. In an ironic way, I felt that we were training our kids to become an algorithm, rather than having them run around freely, explore, and experience failures they could learn from without any measurements being around.
And some of my fears are reflected in the numbers of countries that are using a competitive and rational model of education. For example, while their students achieve the highest scores in the mathematical skills, they are also at
10 The European Business Review January - February 2021