Monday, February 27, 2017

Super-intelligent Artificial Intelligence (AI) - impact on work

Despite TV series like Human and movies – 2001 Space Odyssey, Matrix, Terminator etc. the actual performance of AI is still emergent. However,  we perhaps have an innate fear of non-human intelligence. Especially if we are unable to totally control all aspects of the intelligence.

Here are two videos, providing a more nuanced view on how AI may or may not impact on our lives, in particular, the work that humans do.

First up, a TED talk video from Grady Booch in a 10 minute presentation, delivered late last year. The title, Don't fear super intelligence, is apt. The presentation provides  a good overview of the possibilities and challenges. Optimistic slant similar to book by-  – teaching AI to value human characteristics – ethics, emotion and judgment.
In short, humans are still the directors (we can still unplug the computer at the moment!). 

Second video, another TED talk by David Autor on the topic, of why jobs will not be lost despite advances in technology and AI. This talk also from late last year and is 18 minutes long. Another optimistic viewpoint, creating machines to do work for us, has actually not led to human labour becoming obsolete. The %age of working adults actually increased.

Two aspects support Autor's argument. One 'the O-ring principle' – determines the type of work with do
General principle of work means all work requires a range of skills. Automating some aspect of the work means need for worker to upskill and a different aspect of work becoming the focus. Example bank tellers who now do not have to do the mundane tasks but have become ‘sales’ people and problem solvers. Improvement of tools increases importance of human expertise and creativity.

Secondly the 'never get enough principle' – certain industries did not exist before, but now take up large sectors. Argues less work equates to more leisure. Leisure generates new sectors.
Automation creates wealth by creating more time for us think, create and re-create.
The challenge is not that we will run of work, the challenge is skill mis-match. High skill jobs and low skills jobs increase, but the middle skill jobs are the ones most treathened. Examples used of agreicultural revolution in the US whereby young people were encouraged to complete high skill, increasing skills for manufacturing. Key still through education.

Technology actually magnifies human’s strengths – creativity, innovation and problem solving. We never have enough, so new industries will create new types of work. 40% of Americans in agriculture, now 2% but producing sufficient food for now. 95% decrease in workforce but increase in productivity. 

Again, the importance of education, continual need for workers to up-skill, is reiterated. For education to keep up, the learning of occupational specific skills require distillation into salient 're-configurable' skills as technology shifts job types and needs.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Modern Professional Learners' Toolkit

I have followed Jane Hart's blog for many years. Her Top 100 Tools has been my go to and recommend to others site for a comprehensive list of elearning tools.

Of late, Jane's focus has been on 'learning in the modern workplace' with the book - ' learning in the modern workplace 2017' summarising much of her frameworks and approaches.

This year, a series of articles on the modern workplace learning magazine provide for contributions from other consultants in the field.

So far, articles include:

4 articles by Jane with relevance for me in these two - 'why organisations need to empower employee-led learning'; and 'the modern professional learners' toolkit'.

The former has a good diagram on how individual workplace learner's personal learning space may be constructed.

Two other articles of relevance are by Clark Quinn on experimentation and reflection and by Harold Jarche on mastery takes time and effort.

So, a site with worthwhile resources to follow into the future.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Future of work - not all bad news - some optimism and guidelines

Many of the items we read in the news about the future of work, tend to focus on the ways in which technology will impact on humans in a negative manner. In all endeavours, there are good and bad sides to the story.

For example, this article from Forbes, argues that the future is not that scary. The article does a good job of summarising the salient impacts and approaches the future of work by distilling the personal, organisational and societal impacts. Of importance is the need for individuals to shift from a pathway of education, work and retirement into a cycle of where education, work and leisure are continually 're-invented'. The 're-design' of organisations also includes a need to continually 're-skill' with the 'middle management' layer the ones to most likely be wiped out as jobs which are more 'mundane' disappear and AI replaces 'company wisdom'. Jobs may disappear, but many other jobs well be changed and created as well. There is a call at the end of the article for education and public policy to keep up. These two megaliths have always been slow to change. For education, the recommendation is to ensure vital 'basic skills' including thinking, writing, analysing and maths and science are pre-requisites to completion of formalised schooling. The is then space for 'new education companies' liked Pluralsight, General Assembly, EdX and Coursera - offering small / just-in-time training / educational packages.

On a related note, an article on 'crafting the employee experience' from Deloitte University Press, advocates for the use of 'design thinking' to help employees and employers (i.e. HR). HR becomes 'experience architects' and are tasked with reimagining all aspects of work in their organisations. Aspects include the physical environment; how people meet and interact; the focus of management; and the processes of selecting, training and evaluating workers. Therefore, a focus on individuals and their experience, not just the process of HR.

For many years, education have had 'personal learning environments (PLEs)' as an approach. There are considerable logistical and funding challenges to implementation. The current models based on 'one size fits all' and  'factory production' of outputs (i.e. learners) are being dismantled but only in small pockets of education. So a challenging but exciting time to be in education.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Kevin Kelly - What does Technology Want / The Inevitable - book summaries

In an effort to get to grips with the role of technology, going forward into the future, I worked through two books by Kevin Kelly over the summer ‘break’. In much of the literature and media collation of ‘the future of work’, the role of technology is the all present BIG elephant. Technology is seen to be ‘a good thing’ but also the harbinger of changes to our way of life and the types of work available in the future. In more dystopic and pessimistic versions of the future, the cause of social inequalities and division is how technology changes the availability of 'mundane / unskilled' work. The more able and educated are able to transition rapidly into new work leaving many others behind who are unable to make the shift.

So, firstly, read through Kevin Kelly’s first book, published in 2010. Kelly was editor of Wired and has an interesting background. In effect, coming from an original 'back to basics' philosophy to becoming an early adopter and 'observer' of technology's eventual pervasive influence on our current lives.

What does technology want provides an interesting comparison between natural evolution and the development of technology. The overall approach is optimistic and the main argument is for us humans to understand and maximise the strengths technology provides to augment human potential. The book has been critiqued for imposing a technological view on to biological evolution. There is a 16 minute TED Talk to summarise the book's premises and the concept of 'the technium'. 

The second book published 2015, The Inevitable, is perhaps more readable and applicable to the current context than the first. In this book, Kelly brings evidence from the recent past and the present, to support 12 coalescing ‘verbs’ on how technology impacts on the near future. There is a one hour Youtube video summarising the book's thesis.

These, as recorded in wikipedia are:
1.    Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
2.    Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
3.    Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real-time for everything
4.    Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
5.    Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets, to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
6.    Sharing: Collaboration at mass-scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
7.    Filtering: Harnessing intense personalization in order to anticipate our desires
8.    Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombine in all possible ways
9.    Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
11. Questioning: Promoting good questions are far more valuable than good answers
12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix.

As prefaced in the book, there are overlaps between the inevitables. So each does not stand alone and there is synergy between several 'inevitables'.

What is the impact on the 12 inevitables with education, especially vocational education? 

Unlike the compulsory-school and the higher education (preparation for work) sectors, vocational education has the advantage (or disadvantage) of having a foot in the 'formal / structured' learning environment and the more 'informal' learning accessed by people across their lives. Just-in-time learning, micro-learning etc. via mlearning and summarised for example via Jane Hart's blog, already evidence some of the inevitables. 

People can 'subscribe' (belonging as in #1 inevitable) to learning via MOOCs or other methods to 'bespoke' their own personal learning environments. Flowing (#2), Screening (#4) and Accessing (#5) all add to people's learning experiences as they learn collaboratively on a global scale (#6 sharing), interacting (#9) and often have to use tools to filter (#7), remix (#8) to their own requirements. They can, along with others, track (#10) all their activities. Their learning may be supplemented by AIs (cognifying as in #2) and their are opportunities to question (#11) are availed through being part of networks, social media, access to multitudes of 'content' etc. 

The Inevitable provides a good overview of where humanity may be headed. There is importance in understanding how the rapid shifts in technology impact on us. We can then make more informed choices as to what initiatives we support and advance. To use technology for betterment of the human condition rather than just let technology overwhelm our humanity.