What does increasing automation mean for jobs and education?

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle from Fast Future

The debate about the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on tasks, roles, jobs, employment, and incomes shows no signs of slowing, whether it’s doom-laden predictions of mass unemployment, or more positive predictions of a new wave of jobs being created.

People are legitimately clueless about factors such as how far and how deep these technologies will actually penetrate over the next five to twenty years; the scale of opportunities that will be generated in the new sectors and businesses that might emerge; and how the nature of work, roles, jobs, and workplaces might evolve over time.

How can we respond?  By thinking the unthinkable; particularly about preparing our children and the existing workforce for an uncertain future; creating new jobs and businesses; supporting the unemployed in a fair, dignified, and straightforward manner that supports their search for opportunities; and funding the transitions from this economy to future ones.

The key to all of this is education.  It’s becoming abundantly clear that at the national, business, and individual level, what will determine our ability to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape are our levels of education and big picture awareness. Our capacity to navigate a turbulent landscape will be driven by our understanding of how the world is changing;  our digital literacy;  our capacity to think, reason, and solve problems; our ability to learn new skills and approaches quickly; and our mastery of life skills such as collaboration, scenario thinking, coping with uncertainty, and handling complexity.


These skills will help both our children and ourselves move from role to role in a world where job tenures are shortening but lifespans could be increasing. They will also help us start our own businesses and take greater responsibility for our own livelihoods. This is something that could become an increasing priority as medium to large organisations slim down their workforces through competitive pressures and automation.


A key part of the learning agenda here would be to take people into the new and emerging businesses to help them understand the changing nature of work and workplaces and learn about the skills they require now and in the emerging future. Support systems could be provided for communities to self-organise education and skills programs, sourcing tutors locally, and using attendee ratings and feedback to determine who best serves the needs of local communities. Clearly, pump priming might be required for areas where no such local tutoring talent exists. The key is to try a range of experiments, share the experiences, and scale the best practice models for different types and size of local community.


Ideas that could help include: abolishing Student Debt and Tuition Fees to encourage people to continue with education and inspire students to create new ideas, services, and businesses for a changing world; Training and Education Salaries to support those who are made redundant or struggling to find work in their current sector.  This could be taken further so that new salaried models of vocational training could be developed by evolving existing professional bodies and new ones;   Incentivising Learning – Continuing professional development might have to become compulsory or be incentivised through the tax system to encourage individuals to keep acquiring skills to help them move from job to job.


Alongside educating our children for the future, reskilling the nation and changing mindsets, a parallel process is required to help stimulate new jobs, and the businesses and industry sectors that will provide them.





Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle are from Fast Future, a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting on the emerging future. The latest books from Fast Future are: ‘Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity’, and ‘The Future – Reinvented: Reimagining Life, Society, and Business’. And their forthcoming book is ‘500 Futures’. See: www.fastfuture.com


Web                           http://www.fastfuture.com

Twitter                            http://twitter.com/fastfuture

Blog                           http://blog.fastfuturepublishing.com/

LinkedIn                          http://www.linkedin.com/in/talwar






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