Is re-skilling an evolutionary redux?
Nobody begins a post with a disclaimer. Let me do so. What I have written below does not discredit the World Economic Forum’s take on re-skilling as a necessary condition to stay employed in the technological future that has arrived in the horizon( “Skill, re-skill and re-skill again. How to keep up with the future of work”)
This post is only a philosophical exploration of the larger picture- how today’s technological revolutions and those to come soon are taking us back to the pre-historic condition of survival of the fittest. Only those who have skills needed by the technological ecosystem will remain employed. Others, even if they are highly intelligent, compassionate and hard working will be thrown out of the job market. That is, their living standards will plummet leading to impoverishment and rootlessness, and social isolation.
The essence of human existence is to know ourselves, know the world around us and to infuse meaning into our lives through meaningful and dignified work. Re-skilling is only about acquiring a set of job-related capabilities that sync with the technological needs of the times. Employment-related skills will push other skills to the background if not into total oblivion- personal skills unrelated to the job market like interpersonal, emotional, and spiritual skills that make our lives tolerable and add value to our lives. Job skills will devalue life skills.
The new social order will trigger an unintended apartheid. Those who do not have the “skills” will face social segregation and economic insecurity. The skilled will become the new elites if not the masters. A new class of subaltern- skills-deficit or skills-challenged group will emerge.
Do we need driver-less cars? Can’t this technology be utilised as a niche without mass replacement of the Homo Sapiens?
Do we need super intelligent machines that will replace humans in many jobs? Can’t machine intelligence work in tandem with human intelligence?
Can’t we strive for a human -centred automation culture that will help people to work along with machines?
Who decides which skills are needed to have a job? Is it the abstract thing called the market? Or is it the technological elites who hold the levers of the future?
Can’t we have automation with a human face? Re-skilling is what humans do all the time. But this time around, re-skilling threatens to turn into an existential crisis for a vast sea of humanity as the “skills” that are exalted seem to be out of reach for many. After all, everybody cannot turn into a data scientist or an AI specialist overnight.
Nobody is against technology per se. The bottom line is technological disruption should not create a misanthropic paradigm of machines making humans redundant.
The Machine Age should not create an evolutionary nightmare of pitting the “helpless unskilled” against the “empowered skilled”.