Monday, March 13, 2017
What makes us uniquely human - role of vocational education
‘Super artificial intelligences (AI)’ are currently able to churn through vast amounts of data to create solutions. Used in tandem with other digital tools including embedded chips in other machines, humans and appliances (i.e. the internet of things), AI has and is set to replace blue and white collar workers. AI will be installed in machines, turning them into automated ‘robots’, self-drive vehicles, automatic stock control ‘containers’ and self-repairing appliances.
One perspective is dire. 46% of the current jobs in NZ are predicted to disappear or be significantly changed due to effects of technology. (see NZ Labour party website set up to discuss future of work as an example).
The other, and in my humble opinion, more realistic scenario, is that new jobs will be created and current jobs will be transformed. History supports this perspective. When work in certain sectors become scarce, people move on into other types of work. These new types of work would have become necessary to support the technology that removed the original work itself! (see this article from Forbes for more detailed discussion)
A recent bbc article also supports the above. There are some things, currently still uniquely human, that cannot yet be replicated by machines.
We are now back to the challenges presented to education by the rapidly shifting demands of the world's workforce and economies. Change in education moves ever so slowly. Debates have swung backs and forths as to whether 'Learning Transfer' occurs easily, whereby individuals trained in specialists vocations are able to switch into another (preferably) related job, if their current work disappears. There is the spectre of 'near' and 'far' transfer and for some educationalists', the argument is for very little transfer!
So where does that leave the individual? Continual life-long learning is a given but what of continually retraining to on and on to try to fit into continually changing work? Who bears the costs? the individual? the organisation? the country's educational system? A shared responsibility is the key. It will be interesting to see the final iteration of the 'productivity commission report on tertiary education'. The final report is due out late February but it looks like it is going to be slightly late. The draft sent out for submissions raised more questions than recommended solutions :)
All above important for educational developers to be cognisant on. The 'new' programmes of study we are now working on need to reflect the challenges presented for development of the 'future workforce'.