An Agenda for Educators

Snehal Shah

Author: Snehal Shah

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 20:00

In Japan, if you enter a large departmental store in a busy tourist district, it is very likely a humanoid will usher you in and walk with you to address your shopping needs. In Germany, robots operate more than 90 per cent of the BMW plant’s assembly line. Futurists hasten to predict that a majority of the jobs that exist today may become obsolete in a span of 10 years. And the list goes on. So, if technology is substituting humans at a rapid pace and the current repertoire of skills do not measure up for future jobs, what role can educators play to ensure sustained relevance and impact?    

Connect the dots from the past, present and the future

In the early 20th century, it was Henry Ford’s vision to produce cars on a massive scale, with simple design and at affordable prices. In those days when the privilege of owning a car was reserved for a chosen few, he aimed to “put the world on wheels”. With the invention of an assembly line, productivity and efficiency became the hallmark of mass production. While the benefits of such as a revolutionary technology are experienced even today, certain managerial issues had wide-reaching implications:

Since technology replaced humans, it meant massive layoffs of workers and craftsmen. The entire industry revolving around chariot-making, horse-rearing, and other ancillary activities was almost wiped out. New infrastructure to meet the demand for fuel, servicing and maintenance, including construction of roads, had to be planned and implemented.

This is the story from the past. If we fast-forward a hundred years to reflect on the introduction of electric cars and self-driving autos, surprisingly the challenges faced by managers of today are not very different. Perhaps the environment facing them may be more complex than in those days but the issues are still about worker layoffs, redundancy and developing new infrastructure. As educators, we can decipher these patterns to help navigate the future more effectively.

 

Augment thinking capacity

Recently it was in the news that IBM’s Watson – a natural language processing platform - beat champions of a highly intellectual quiz game called Jeopardy shown as a TV show in the US. If Watson can beat smart humans, how can humans stay ahead of the “artificially intelligent” counterpart?

Enhancing critical thinking skills, especially when the situation is characterised by ambiguity and uncertainty, is one important way to augment the human thinking capacity. Further, creativity and innovation skills are also seen to be crucial to succeed today and prepare us for the nature of work in the future. Research shows that these skills can be taught, to achieve the desired results. It is imperative for management institutes and educators to create curricula conducive to developing these skills through various interventions inside and outside the classrooms.

Emphasise holistic management of self & organisations

Humanoids can look like us, work like us but they cannot ‘feel’ like us. This sentiment seems to be one of the distinguishing factors between humans and the walking-talking computer. In other words, humans have to become more ‘humane’ to save themselves from extinction. At the heart of ‘humane-ness’ are the qualities of developing empathy, becoming compassionate and nurturing a perspective of oneness with other humans. A similar ideology needs to percolate through today’s organisations with a view not only to make profit but also pursue a higher purpose that will create meaningful value for all stakeholders.

There are several companies in India and elsewhere who have started walking this path. To enhance the impact of such a journey for individuals and organisations, it becomes important for educators to play a facilitative role through sharing and creating knowledge in this domain.

 

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Comments

Mam, This blog is reflects the advancement of robotics around the world and consequence of the same. Our Union Youth Minister stated that by 2020 India will reap the Demographic advantage. This means, the proportion of working people to the total population will be higher. Educators plays a vital role in reaping this advantage. Emerging innovations in robotics replaced Human interventions and become a threat to future employment. As rightly pointed out, we Humans have distinct characteristics which can't be replaced by robots in near future like "Creativity", "Critical thinking skills", "Innovations". Educators need to spread the knowledge of these skills and taught in right manner to younger generation. Another factor where machines are distinguished from Humans is “relationship”. People should be taught the skills of relationship development in organization and society and make them understand their importance. Growing innovation in robotics will be helpful in creating the employment among young generation with proper education and training. At the same time, robots in industry will replace the humans with the advance technology. So, in order to get the advantages of demographic changes India should take care of both the areas and Educators role in this process is commendable.

Dear Madam, Your thoughts at the deep implications that fast paced technology world poses specifically for the human workforce are indeed a buried fear in many a hearts. In fact our daily news bulletins are replete with stories of how the banking and telecom sectors are going to face job-cuts or how several thousands employed with the many software firms will soon be redundant due to automation. In my opinion, this shift in gear commands a relook at our basic education system. Not simply because many skills we learn will soon be hijacked by technology but because we need to explore the new challenges the future world holds. So while a Baymax (remember the hug-gable ballooned medical aid from movie Big Hero 6!) can be my constant health companion and blurt out diagnosis from its exhaustive list or even pick my moods by scanning physiographics, it can never replace the comfort of a human presence. This implies that the need for a human help will not be phased out but will demand upgraded skills. In this case, it can be keeping track of the medical robot’s performance metrics and reporting. So the question is the now-oft heard “How to stay relevant?” The education system has a lot to contribute in this context. The task of introducing young minds to these technologies and yet inspiring them to stay ahead of it through innovation is enormous. You have also indicated how creativity and innovation can be developed with practice. Again, educationists are the best coaches to prepare students for the stress and competition an exceedingly comfortable life will pose. Limited human contact, shrinking job markets and advanced skill needs shall subject generation-X to a rapidly evolving, dynamic environment. Relating to human emotions in a widely digitized world and staying compassionate are likely to become textbook chapters for the future generation!

Ma’am I completely agree with the point that there is a need to ‘Augment thinking Capacity’. Enhancing critical thinking and coaching an innovative thought process will not only make us stand apart today but also help us stay relevant in the near future. One point the blog emphasizes on is that humanoids can look like us, work like us but they cannot feel like us. This is something each one of us needs to understand, even though our BMWs are being put together by robots but those stunning designs and engine geometry for adrenaline-charged power delivery are a few things which only we can do. Educators are playing a very essential role in the making of future leaders by imparting life skills like Design Thinking, which focuses on human centred design again this is something which only humans can do because we understand the needs of each other. One more critical task educators can take up is proposing a change in mind-set i.e. smart machines can be our partners in creative problem solving. Elaborating further it can be said that there is a need to figure out what humans do today and how that work can be deepened rather diminished by greater use of machines. In some cases these machines will allow us to take on tasks that are superior—sophisticated, fulfilling, better suited to our strengths—to anything we have given up. In other cases the tasks will simply be different from anything computers can do well. On the other hand there are task which only humans can do because they would have been so well structured they would have been coded. This change in mind-set will have implications for both employers and employees in the ways how organisations are managed and the way individuals thrive to succeed. We must take this change as an opportunity rather than a threat because this changed mind-set holds the potential actually change the future for good.

I completely agree with you Ma’am. The changes in technology in the last few years are simply fascinating. For decades, robotics & AI were always seen as technologies which would shape the next era. But, now we are experiencing the change. I agree with you that there is pattern in which these changes in technology are impacting jobs. However, the adoption time for new technologies in various sectors has fallen over time. As the living standards have changed, the cost of living has also risen. Therefore the impact of jobs being taken away by robotics and AI is certainly more than the past and the response time for society is less. Educators can play a major role in increasing the preparedness of students to face the fast changing world. Jobs which require creativity and emotional intelligence are areas where AI is yet to make its mark. Educators can help students to inculcate qualities which AI or robotics cannot replicate thereby making them less replaceable in future. Changes are inevitable. Hence future managers need to develop a holistic perspective to accept the change and have the flexibility to learn new skills in narrow span of time.

Mam, this is a very nice thought provoking article which I read in the recent times. In light of the anxiety of automation causing layoffs, Educators can be the only ray of hope future generations. As you rightly connected the dots of past and present, a similar situation can arise out of the current technology. According to a recent study by oxford university, about 60% of current day jobs could be automated over the next 20 years. Even in the 19th-century education is what saved the job layoffs during the industrial revolution and it could be critical even now. To add to your suggestion of developing critical thinking and social skills which help the humans have an edge over the robots during uncertainty, the education system needs a phenomenal transformation. The schools need to be equipped to impart creativity and management skills, which might be tough for the robots to come up in any near future. In addition to focussing on the above-mentioned skills, schools should be teaching the skill of working in unison with technology. Organizations should also understand the fact that for a sustainable growth, it should consider that humanness is very much needed to make the best use of technology to create innovative solutions. It should rather focus more on the long-term benefit than the short-term benefit of cost-savings. All the above suggestions and plans would work best when incorporated by the educators in the society. Many organizations/employees are now in a hurry to upgrade their skill sets and are now looking at educators and educational institutions. Thus, the role of an educator can safely be compared to that of a saviour in recent times.

Dear Ma'am,you have very nicely captured the theme of automation in general and humanoids in particular. Automation is debate’s most valued youngster in the realm of innovation. It generates blended response each time it attempts to remodel itself to somewhat more constructive, more precise, more equipped, and obviously, more mechanized. Humanoids will assume governance over the human race and so forth! These are the most loved terms envisioned to alarm individuals from progressing and amending to the progressions that go along. One of the utmost feelings of dread of automation instigates from the parable (or the veracity, maybe) that it will execute employments similarly as it has been as far back as its appearance. More individuals will lose occupations to machines is the thing that has inspired individuals to discord each time another robotized entryway or candy machine gets announced. In any case, it shouldn’t be ignored that there will dependably be advancing occupations for controlling these components as well. Many advantages can occur from Humanoids. Once perfected they can do wonderful things that even humans can’t think of doing. Life with Humanoids in society will be very dissimilar but very efficient and the economy will enormously increase. Added benefit that results from Humanoids is that they do not make gaffes. They can work in factories and do the same thing over and over again and not do it any differently. Humans on the other hand will be exhausted after doing the same thing repetitively and could easily make an error. The robots can endure the hostile environment of the interplanetary space, without the air, underwater & in the fire. They can shoulder superior responsibilities and can be programmed to manage themselves. There are also some drawbacks that are produced by Humanoids. Disadvantages are hard to be dodged since with every emerging technology comes a disadvantage you cannot just alter things without an effect on something else. There are also many losers when it comes to an evolving technology such as Humanoids. The people who lose their jobs as result of the Humanoids will definitely be a loser. Another product of Humanoids would be the individuals who become socially introverted. Also Humanoids cost much money in the maintenance and repair. Moreover the procedures to restore lost code or data may be time-consuming and costly.

World is moving very fast on atomization and digitization. Technology is changing very high rate and there will be more and more robots which will have replacement of people. People will not need to work but must need of knowledge and skill to maintain robots. So in span of 10 to 20 years majority of job exist today will vanish. So need of educator is need of hour and educator role is influential and impact able. There is also need of person who knows about of past, present and future and who will connect dots. Educator have more shoulder responsibility for developing new generation for creating curricula. The innovation and creativity is must requirement and it only done through proper education. The population of world are increasing and due to automation work will done at rapid pace than before. It will create risk of people not having job. There will be one difference in human and Robots. Robots does not have feeling and perceptions. Human have empathy, emotions and caring which Robots will not have. Also Robots is not self-originator, but human is. Robots is made by human but human cannot by Robot. There will be need of expert people who will attend breakdown of robots and doing preventive maintenance of robots. In industry also now realized the need of training and education of people. In our company Education and Training is important pillar of operation excellence. As mentioned by Mam, there are many companies in India who have already on this path and our company is one of them. As mam mentioned that in future @ 100 years next there will be electric cars and all are automatic driven there will be other challenges from environment point of view. New challenges at that time to save nature and job to the people. Educator needs to think now which type of education is needed so that we will be prepared for future.

Respected Madam, I find my thoughts resonate with your views presented in the blog relating to how the rise of ‘Humanoids’ shall ‘augment the human thinking capacity’ in the ambiguous and uncertain times to come and how educators shall contribute with a changed role in such a disruptive future. As aptly highlighted by you, Humanoids cannot ‘feel’ like humans and do not possess sentiments to view the world with a non-mechanical lens. However, I believe that this nature of humans could well backfire if we do not master the art of dealing with sentiments. A classic example of poor sentiment management, which comes to my mind, is of the Maruti Manesar Plant tragedy of 2012. It was improper display of sentiment of ‘anger’ by the HR executive which excited the already boiling sentiments of ‘mistrust’ and ‘frustration’ among the workers to result in a deadly riot taking lives of some and injuring many. If this is how human sentiments shall prevail then humans shall be bigger ‘disruptors’ of tomorrow. Claude Shannon, the famous American mathematician and engineer, once said, “I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.” But, if we turn the coin, I see a tremendous revolution in the field of education and the role of educators, which shall address the problem of sentiments and make humans ready to face the ‘Humanoid’ era. It shall be the era where tools of creativity and boundless thinking shall be used to pale out the gloom of sentiment imbalance and enlighten a new path for human growth. The trends in the education system around the globe suggest that a holy dip in the ocean of liberal arts is all what it shall take to tame the uncreative humanoid world. The new path shall be one of entrepreneurship and innovation. It shall be ‘ideas’ which shall decide the valour of human race. The educators of the world are moving towards that epoch of time. Be it the launch of the ‘Seed Fund for entrepreneurship and innovation’ in the Hampshire College (Massachusetts) which allocates $200,000 each year to fund new ideas or be it the creation of the ‘entrepreneurship centre’ in the Oberlin College (Ohio) that funds student summer internships or the ‘Big Idea Pitch Competition’ at Colorado College (College) which awards $50,000 as venture funding, all suggest this move of the time towards an education of innovation, creativity and design thinking. Liberal Arts is being considered by colleges worldwide to develop in the humans a distinct thought process which shall sow the seeds of creativity. An interesting revelation was made in a study by LinkedIn which brought out that the growth in the number of liberal arts undergraduates entering the technology sector over the past few years was 10 percent more than that of engineering major students. This trend clearly suggests that even the professional world has geared up for a different education structure where the role of the educator, as pointed out by you, shall be of nurturing innovations and creativity.

Ma’am this is an amazing piece of writing ang provokes us to think about the biggest change we as future working professionals would have to face. While it is true that with every technological advancement, we face is a loss of jobs but we have to train ourselves to find opportunity in the midst of these advancements. A senior partner of McKinsey once said that we can say that Ola has taken the jobs of auto drivers, or we can say that Ola has created the jobs for huge number of drivers, app engineers, managers and so on. Thus, to be able to create opportunities in this era of disruptions we have to both increase our critical thinking skills to understand the rationale of the disruption such that our insights become irreplaceable and also be aware of the needs of human beings in our immediate environment so that we can communicate these changes to them and also tailor these disruptions according to the needs of people. A role of a facilitator is very crucial here as an able facilitator can not only inform the student about the best practices of the industry but can also inform the students as to why those practices worked at a particular point of time thereby connecting the dots and also forcing the students to think beyond their textbooks and ahead of their time. An able mentor can present different worldviews to a student and could also make a student realize that it is not only the practices but also people who believe in the culture of an organisation who make these practices successful and their success inimitable. A facilitator can really expand the thinking horizons of a student by making him/her realize the importance of being comfortable with the ambiguities because the moment we start considering the world as black and white, that very moment we lose our “humaneness” to become more and more robotic in our decisions and thus easily replaceable. A mentor can inspire a student to be empathetic because that really helps business leaders to have a finger on the pulse of the market when we can sense the expectations of people and develop the skill of unstructured problem solving where the nature of the problem and metrics of success are always ill defined much unlike the world of robots where everything is structured to catered a particular need of customer.

It is very thought provoking blog ma’am and I completely agree to your view point. There is this hype that automation and technologies will reduce jobs and increase unemployment. However, I do not agree completely to the point that advancement of technology will cause unemployment or reduction in jobs. Let me put my point through an example; In past we were using hand driven carts for daily transportation and when technology of auto rickshaws, bikes and other mode of transportation were developed, hand driven carts became obsolete and hence group of people involved in that business became jobless. But on the other side, auto manufacturers and bike manufacturers were in need of skilled laborers which created employment. Similarly, I think that though self-driven cars may not require manpower for driving cars but for its manufacturing and for handling other nuances, manpower will be required. Thus in nut shell job will not be depleted only the skills for doing job will change and Educators will have major role to play here. Educators have to equip new generation with this new skills to make this transition from one technology era to another a smoother one.. Looking at VUCA world and changing nature of jobs, I think the two most important skills would be innovation and solving problems in ambiguous and uncertain situation. Innovation, unlikely in past now would be a necessary condition for survival of business, as all the routine jobs would be done by robots but the creative part of business and critical thinking is something which only humans would be able to do. Thus now educators will have to inculcate and hone the skills of thinking innovatively and creatively in the future managers. Probably this will require of the box for thinking for educators also as these skills cannot be inculcated through theories. It requires a perfect blend of academics and non-class room trainings and curriculum which forces students to think something new and innovative Another Important skills or aspect is problem solving in and ambiguous and uncertain environment. Businesses are becoming more and more complex where everything is interlinked. As so much is interdependent on each other that finding the root cause of problem or having certainty of single cause of problem has become very difficult and so does the solution of problem and hence the future mangers need to deal with such ambiguous situations. To Imbibe and hone such skills educators needs to create a curricula with subjects from Liberal art which will help management students to deal with ambiguous conditions. When I look at curriculum of SPJIMR, I really think that that subjects like Design thinking pushes students to think creatively and subjects like MALA helps them to get comfortable with ambiguous situations and prepares students to be the managers of future.

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