CreativeMornings with William Generett

Genius is the theme of this month’s CreativeMornings lecture. Illustration by Claudio Limon.

This month’s CreativeMornings lecture featured William Generett Jr., the inaugural President and CEO of Urban Innovation21 and soon to-be vice president for community engagement at Duquesne University. The theme for this month’s talk was ‘Genius’ and the speaker emphasized that Genius is manufactured, not innate. As a child, William Generett’s parents instilled in him a strong sense of self-esteem and an interest in reading that gave him the ability to adapt to changing fields. With the coming economic revolution, everyone will need to adapt.

“According to the most conservative estimate, there will be a 40% job loss by 2030. Not just in low-income areas but across fields”

The good, bad, and agnostic

As new technologies are developed using artificial intelligence, the job market will shift. There will be tasks that can ultimately be done better by computers, rather than humans. Self-driving automobiles are already commonplace in Pittsburgh and will transform the future of shipping industries around the world. A software company like AOL might have employed 20,000 people in the past, but today a Silicon Valley start-up with the same financial capital may only employ 15. These are just of the examples Generett mentioned about the challenges to come.

But along with this loss, new jobs will emerge. AI can (and has) revived the arts and encouraged people to pursue more creative pursuits. Work that previously took 60 hours can take less than 20, giving people the time to explore more interests and innovate their fields. And AI can help level the playing field in terms of education and income. Po-Shen Lo, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, created expii.com, an educational start-up committed to bringing math education to students around the world. They used AI to create personalized tutoring for math and science delivered through a free smartphone app. In this way and many others, AI can help bridge the gap in education and provide students with unlimited resources for improvement.

Regardless of how you feel about AI, the fact remains that these changes are upon us and we should be ready. The question for non-profit organizations and community leaders is, how do we prepare the community for this change?

Maintain Inclusivity

As Urban Innovation21’s CEO, Generett encouraged entrepreneurship and economic development in Pittsburgh and helped connect this growth to underserved communities. During his time there, several grants were given out to local businesses in Northside, Homewood, and the Hill District to ensure that these neighborhoods were not left behind in the city’s economic renaissance. Urban Innovation21 also invests in education by connecting underrepresented students to internships in technology and funding STEAM/STEM programs through Citizen Science Lab. They believe Inclusive Innovation is “the key to increasing regional competitiveness and sustainability.” The City of Pittsburgh has been partners with Urban Innovation21 since its inception to promote Inclusive Innovation throughout the city.

Click here to view the complete SlideShare

Rethink education

Generett recommended changes to education and learning priorities that should accompany this economic revolution. An emphasis on creativity and critical thinking from a liberal arts education will allow students to become life-long learners. Reading remains an integral part of education and the development of new ways of thought. He also suggested a transition from career-tracks and technical skills to a curriculum that focuses on critical thinking and communication skills that are transferable to all fields. As AI grows, more technical skills will be phased out. The key to success is to be a life-long learner and entrepreneur. We should all be doing research and staying educated about the changes going on in technology. With this in mind, we can adapt and use these tools to create an inclusive and innovative future.


CreativeMornings is a free breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Attendees gather in cities around the world to discuss relevant issues across sectors over coffee and treats. CreativeMornings is an Inclusive Innovation partner with the City of Pittsburgh and we encourage everyone to attend these lectures and meet like-minded and thoughtful people from all over the city. Keep up with CreativeMornings events and sign up for their newsletter for updates on future speakers!