How do you prepare your kids for a future that’s never been less certain?
First, Jeremy Howard does a great job illustrating what machine learning is and what it’s capable of. My only critique of Jeremy Howard’s TED talk is that he leaves the big question till the end without pursuing any options of what the future should or may look like. He mentions changes in social and economic structure are necessary, but doesn’t explore what kinds of changes these are and what it may look like. Nor does he offer any words of cautions or things to look out for. He leaves it to the audience, perhaps so people like me can speculate.
The only thing that is certain is that the future we imagine and the future that comes to pass are going to be different.
I take 2 things in particular from his talk.
One, it would seem that the only thing that cannot be automated at this point or in the very near future are disciplines rooted in creativity. While machines can generate text by analyzing images or some other input, it doesn’t seem like they can write a poem, story, etc quite yet. This also seems like something that is only a matter of time. If machines can learn and start randomly putting unrelated ideas together, what’s to stop them from eventually developing a creative capacity? Especially if they can experiment and iterate quicker than humans? What I mean is maybe it is difficult to try and tackle creativity for machines with a one-prong approach at the front end. What happens when that effort is combined with another learning algorithm that assesses other creative works on the back end? At some point they would learn what makes good writing, art, etc or they could even offer several alternatives based on different tastes and points of view.
Given that many service industries and functions can and will be automated over the next 2–3 decades, what do you do as a parent? What are considered “secure” industries or functions now, won’t be by the time children come of age. And at that point, the current educational system is too rigid and narrow focused. Many may be completely unprepared to adapt.
Are schools asking these questions? Are enough parents asking these questions? Are schools even focusing on the right skills for their students in periods of only increasing uncertainty? Are they working together to design a more flexible approach to education?
We seem to be on the cusp of an educational revolution, at least when it comes to technology, and that is very exciting. This is great for extending the reach of quality education to those who would otherwise be hard pressed to find such an opportunity on their own. Quality courses are available online with absolutely no charge or very little cost in terms of what you receive, I’m thinking Coursera, edX, and NovoEd to name a few. Even the stakeholders who have the most to gain other than employees are getting involved through platforms like Udacity where companies like facebook and Google are offering courses directly to students/workers. This approach seems to validate that some thing is missing from higher education.
But, I wonder, is technology even the biggest problem?
As a parent of a toddler, these are just some of the questions always running in the back of my mind.
Originally published at www.andrewciszczon.com on February 18, 2015.