How many times have you said "I don't know" this past week? The question has become of utmost importance for the future of our professional lives, even though our culture does not seem to support it wholeheartedly.
PUT ON YOUR POKER FACE
Have you ever noticed people pretending they know a new term or concept in conversations? In our jobs, family, friends' gatherings, many times we feel compelled to pretend we know about the subject of the conversation and avoid being judged or subtly, perversely ruled out of the conversation. Frequently, you see people with blank faces in conversations quickly pulling off their smartphones and catching a glimpse of a lifesaving concept floating on the net that takes you back to the shore "alive." Some people have developed fantastic skills to work around those tight skirt situations by asking peripheric questions until they have accumulated enough information to venture into a debate. Those are very uncomfortable situations indeed. And that gets worse when you are the expert on the topic and is caught unguarded by that new fashion term or trend. And let's face it, given the speed of change these days, if you relax one week on your readings, that seems inevitable to happen. Few people I have seen in leadership positions taking a clear stand - "I don’t know. Could you please educate me about it", what denotes maturity and top-notch leadership skills and creates trusted working environments. Most people try to preserve their authority throwing the topic to the curbside as fast as possible, so they have a chance to get acquainted with it before engaging again. However, that behavior brings unwanted consequences.
Carol Dweck in her best-seller entitled "Mindset," has shown us the importance of cultivating a growth mindset. Make learning our life motto as the only way to achieve success. Be open to new concepts, look for new angles to old concepts, let go what we believe is the only way. Have that exploratory mind that allows us to ask timely questions and be encouraged to open new fields. However, that is not what we commonly see even though the book first edition was released in 2006. Recently a close friend of mine has adopted an iPhone after dropping his former Windows one. He described to me how difficult it was to be the target of mockery from friends in the period he was trying to learn the new OS and the new ways of his device. He vented "no one was really up to teach me the ways, what I had to ask for every time. I felt like an outsider all the time". To me, that is an excellent analogy to the ways our culture do not support a growth mindset. I was raised in a house where admitting not to know something would feel like walk the plank to a sea full of sharks - fixed mindsets at best. So I had to learn how to continuously cultivate a curious mind, especially to imprint that in my kids' psyche. Showing to my kids clearly that I do not know a topic, opens an opportunity for us to think about how to best search for the information or the best channels to research. Open up the possibility of a dialogue about what sources are credible and which ones are not. Finally, empower us to compare our understanding and explore different perceptions and conclusions. We win as a family. Why not in our work environments?
BE HUMBLE, BE PROUD
We have explored a lot the future of the work in previous articles (collectivebrains.org). If there is one apparent aspect of future desirable skills is the need for a growth mindset. Satya Nadella has asked every Microsoft employee to embrace this journey. In a world where all information is within reach of our fingertips and voice commands, where machines are outperforming our analytical capacity, only an open exploratory mindset will prevail as capable of producing. Our ability to think creatively and make connections where they did not seem before will overthrow all other analytical skills. So, in my opinion, be humble and next time say "I don't know" - there is your chance to learn something new. Moreover, be proud of being aware of your learning opportunities, especially if you are a leader. That will set your team correctly for the future. Please note how better the situation would be in the US if our executive leader adopts that mindset. If at least he could ask the experts to educate him in new fields. Much embarrassment could be avoided and progress achieved. Simple.
Albert Einstein once said "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." Let's start by admitting that we don't know what we don’t know, and that is good!
The 2018 edition of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) report, brings a special focus on the importance of diversity. They highlighted how collaboration between social partners in society is vital to confront the immense challenges that we face in a world that is increasingly dependent on talent. So, the ability of a country to attract talent will ultimately pave the way for a more innovative society capable of solving its problems. The study is rich in insights and in-depth analysis. I would like to highlight just a few that supports two vital points for both the future of work and education and to make our societies more sustainable - Education and Social Equity. Timely discussion, as teachers strike across the US for better working conditions and fair compensation, and that barely scratches the surface of our education widening deficit. We can learn from the GTCI report, from which I am drawing directly few excerpts, what we need to do regarding creating social policies to prepare our students to compete globally and enable our families to support them.
GLOBAL TALENT COMPETITIVENESS INDEX 2018 AND SOCIAL EQUITY
The top GTCI scores continue to be dominated by developed, high-income countries and there is a high correlation between GDP per capita and GTCI scores. Those are precisely the countries with the resources and will to create more social equity. In those countries, we can see a virtuous cycle, where public policies to build more social capital creates better living conditions, which attracts and retain more local and global talent to prosper. That is what the graphic below indicates. It makes clear that reducing social inequality is vital for global competitiveness in the long run and social stability. When teachers must go on strike to fight for minimum conditions, that is a clear indication we are not doing enough to create social equity with a quality education.
Education and Diversity: Challenges and Opportunities
Education is the focus of today's social equity agenda of societies aiming to be competitive in the 21st century. And it could not be different. Educate diverse students in the current globalized and unequal world is not a simple task. We need to create the right conditions for every student to thrive in the information economy of the future, and not only a few.
From an educational perspective, increasing diversity raises the question: what is the best way to ensure that all students can succeed in school and beyond? Traditional educational systems have focused on uniformity and standardization: uniform aims, identical content, standardized learning progression, undifferentiated amount of time assigned for learning, and common criteria for success—regardless of the diversity of talents in the student population. The emphasis has been on the homogeneity of learners (and outcomes). This paradigm of homogeneity required that learners were seen as similar in many ways and that differences were deliberately not acknowledged. This approach might have been appropriate in a time of massification and expansion of education, but it is simply not tenable in a modern world. It is no longer uncommon for teachers to have a class with a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures, learning preferences, and abilities. There is ample evidence from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test that diversity matters, but perhaps not always in the way we would hope it would: students with immigrant backgrounds perform less well on average on the PISA assessment than their native peers; those from wealthier families outperform the less wealthy; and there are long-standing gender differences in performance that, on average, favor boys (in mathematics) and girls (in reading). And while these performance gaps are critical, the significant variation in their magnitude across countries indicates that these differences can be largely mitigated, if not overcome. Providing all students with the skills and competencies required to thrive in school and beyond means being able to meet their diverse sets of needs.
WHAT STUDENTS LEARN: FROM CURRICULUM TO COMPETENCY
Uniformity and standardization have shaped not only the how of teaching and learning environments in schools but also what students are supposed to learn and teachers to teach. Many educational systems struggle to move away from a curriculum framework where uniform learning objectives and content are prescribed in a centralized way to be taught in all schools of the nation.
CALL FOR INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION
Teachers need to be able to adapt learning activities to the different abilities, competencies, and motivations of their students as well as to their linguistic, cultural, and social backgrounds. That must be complemented with a sensitive assessment that allows learner strengths and weaknesses to be identified. Technology plays a crucial role in permitting the individualization of information, communication, and materials. Investments must be made to equip and train the education ecosystem.
Homogeneous learning environments—which tune the pedagogical encounter to the ‘average’ learner—risk providing an overload of learning challenges to some students while not offering enough stimulation to others. In both cases, the learning outcomes will be suboptimal. Managing cognitive load and learning challenges in such a way that all learners can take equal benefit requires well-designed pedagogies and appropriate assessment systems.
HOW TO SUPPORT TEACHERS: COMPETENCES FOR DIVERSITY
Diverse classrooms, new pedagogies, and curriculum frameworks focusing on new competencies will require different skills sets and behaviors from teachers. The question thus becomes: are teachers ready for this? Or are teachers themselves educated for professional roles that put uniformity and conformity first?
WHERE DECISIONS ARE TAKEN: THE POLICY CHALLENGES
Educational systems that take diversity seriously can no longer rely on governance models of command and control. The policy equivalent of uniformization and standardization is a heavily centralized governance system in which all schools are treated in the same way through central steering and accountability arrangements that force schools into compliance with decisions taken in the center. In increasingly diverse societies, local conditions tend to vary enormously, and schools cannot realize their social mission without adjusting themselves to those conditions. Diversity thus induces flexibility and deregulation, with schools assuming ownership of pedagogy and curricula. Based on PISA 2015 data, shows that students’ learning outcomes are positively influenced when responsibilities over curriculum or assessment are located at the level of the school management and teachers and removed from that of national education authorities such as ministries.
Past performance is no guarantee of future success. With so much to do, it is vital for all of us to understand the current scenarios, the future of work and education and foster necessary changes by casting our votes responsibly to enable modern and effective social policies. We cannot wait for any longer to revitalize our public education system and create more social equity, so every family can support their kids to be winners in the very competitive global job market.
In my last article, I have explained the reasons Artificial Intelligence brains fed by the Big Data will make us all penny wise, pounds wiser. I described a hypothetical situation when the manager of a small neighborhood restaurant, in the near future, would be able to optimize and grow its business, using natural language, and by adopting services built on AI and Big Data. Technology will make every business, every person, and every institution more efficient and profitable. An unbelievable amount of wealth will be generated globally.
The critical question following is how we should use all this wealth soon to be generated? A puzzle that opens up economic, social, moral and ethical considerations. Top global institutions lean over the potential implications of a new industrial revolution and build models how those technologies will unfold in the next two decades. A common threat to those futuristic exercises is the risk imposed on today's jobs. A potential massive job displacement might come and bring a broad social upheaval with it.
THE ECONOMIC CONUNDRUM
The current paradigm created by the full employment of the information era's new technologies defies capitalism itself. An economy where the standard input is information, cannot be managed as an economy moved by a market based on commodities and scarce resources. The primary product of the new economy is information. Information is not a limited resource, and that changes the foundations of capitalism in three ways, (as seen...) defends Paul Mason in his book "Post-Capitalism." First, it will reduce the need for work, and so eliminate jobs at scale. Second, it is eroding companies' ability to form price correctly and creating information symmetry where it was not possible before. Third, it has opened new avenues enabling collaborative work that defies monopolies and economic power. The latter two effects are very favorable for a more equitable economy, but the first one will require us to have timely answers. If jobs are eliminated at scale and faster than new jobs are created, we might not have enough consumers and users to fuel the new economy.
And that is an unpleasant conundrum to solve - how can we create a period of unparalleled wealth and massively eliminate jobs supporting capitalism at the same time?
If we look back and analyze past disruptive economic cycles triggered by technology, we can find models to apply and find viable answers. Those periods were called industrial revolutions. In each of those cycles, we see a similar pattern. They generated both more wealth and jobs in the long run, but social distress during the transitions. Technology has been the single most significant driver of long-term human and social improvement, but it comes with a price tag that has to be picked by the generation living the transition. But, has it?
Automation has generated wealth and progress so far. Today we live longer and way more comfortable than 200 years ago when the first industrial revolution started. But if we have asked workers their expectations and views during those transitions periods, they would not be favorable or even catastrophic. Industrial Revolutions may be cruel for workers in the years they are taking place and would be awkward and meaningless to explain the benefits and positive forecasts to the displaced workers. We have a moral obligation to learn with the past to create a better future and avoid unnecessary pain and distress. Economically, we have discovered how to do that. A good example is the counter-cycle President Obama has created to get us out of the 2008 depression. It was inspired by the learnings of the 1929 crash and other recessions. We need to do the same with this 4th industrial revolution and create social equity to make a better transition for all of us and not just a few. We can avoid suffering if we invest in education and the creation of social nets to the displaced ones and the new generations of students.
There is no reason to think the new cycle will not generate jobs and wealth in the more extended run. I do believe so. But it is scary to see its concentrated effect in the next two decades. This cycle will create more intense distress as its full impact will be felt in one-quarter of the time of the first two industrial revolutions, and about half of the third one - just 25 years. Not enough time to prepare an entire generation to adapt to new jobs' demands. We will have to re-skill and up-skill every worker and student for new categories of posts demanding more education and critical thinking.
Therefore, we need to build a bridge, one that will connect today with a brighter future for all of us. And it will require all of us to understand that and use democratic ways to push for changes.
THE UNIFYING BRIDGE
This bridge will bring liberals and conservatives, capitalists and socialists altogether.
It is the most significant concern of liberals, socialists, and humanitarians today, the rising social inequality. The social gap between the wealthier 1% of the population and the rest has been just enlarged in the last decades. That wave of new technologies should, but it is not soothing the problem. In the capital side, mergers and acquisitions of new companies are consolidating the leadership and propelling business concentration around fewer players. The top 3 tech companies are flirting with the trillion dollars cap as we speak, a level not seen before in history. And the problem tends to worsen out as we see more concentration and therefore less competition in key industries. Despite a shallow celebration by the government last month, we see stagnant wages even though the US is in full employment. Even worse, protectionism is back on the agenda, protecting profits for the largest businesses and creating higher living costs for the population. The widening social gap erodes the foundation of society and poses a threat to democracy. Its consequences vary from the growth of the homeless population, a staggering 106,000 people in the West Coast to the growth of social costs as healthcare and social nets, to the rise of urban violence. Unnecessary social distress that we can avoid if we coordinate our efforts towards a balance economic agenda, one that enables economic growth and combat business concentration, stimulate competition to tame prices and reduces social inequality.
Capitalists are very happy with the economic recovery of the last decade, and employees too as jobs are back. Businesses are boosted by the digital revolution and gaining more access to new users and markets. But as automation increases the elimination of jobs, and soon at a large scale, we will see businesses desirably being more profitable but more and more people having their jobs displaced. That is not a sustainable cycle. In the next years, we will hit a break-even point where we will need more users and consumers to be able to keep growing businesses, but the unemployed workers will be out of the market. The situation will be critical as new jobs will not be created at the same speed they have been eliminated. We will need a solution to protect both our economy and our people. That means the mechanisms to redistribute income and reincorporate people as consumers back in the economy will be a target of both capitalists and socialists, both businesses and workers, both conservatives and liberals. As I have explained in my previous article, if we do it timely, we need no tax increase to fund such mechanism as AI will amplify wealth generation. All we need is to redistribute it better to keep people in the formal economy during the transition, and invest in social equity, mainly quality up-to-date education to all, to create a new workforce capable of being productive in the 21st century. Jobs will come back. We need prepared workers to take them. Today we have gaps in tech jobs that we are not able to fulfill with our internal market only. We compete internationally for talent and companies are doing all possible to attract those talents. But they are in short supply. We can expect that will be the reality in most industries soon. We need to massively prepare our students and the current workforce to compete for those jobs. Education every time more define the employability line, and in the future, we will only have jobs for highly skilled workers with a clear sense of collaboration and affective skills. A bridge we need to build, altogether.
We will invest to create more social equity through programs that significantly improve education and guarantee a basic income to the population whose had their jobs displaced. Those programs may have different formats like baby bonds or UBI (Universal Basic Income), a program to guarantee a minimum income to the entire population. Many piloted programs in various countries across the globe, including cities in the US, are proving that providing the basic needs for individuals and families and help them to keep their heads above water is very effective to reintegrate them in the productive society. That way they develop the necessary conditions that allow them to go back to school and get re-skilled and trained for new jobs. It is a myth that people helped by those programs will stop fighting for better conditions and more dignifying ways of making a living. That is the morally correct thing to do.
MAY WE ALL WORK TOGETHER
Time to put aside our political differences and current understanding of social policies. AI is puzzling us with new moral questions and will require us to re-discuss what the ethical behaviors are we want to adopt moving forward. An unprecedented wealth will be created. We need to help each other to transition to a more humanitarian new future with dignity. UBI and Baby Bonds are only two possible solutions. We depend on favorable public policies to make those mechanisms real. Which representative are you going to give your vote? The Yea or Nay?
AI and Big Data are the cornerstones of a reinvigorated information era. Time to witness the creation of an unprecedented level of wealth across the globe. Two questions have frequently shown up in our discussion forums - how that wealth will be generated and what to do with the economic surplus. Two timely items we will need to collectively address rather sooner than later, as they will redefine the quality of life for all of us, and in no more than two decades. In this article, I will address the former question and will discuss the latter in my next one when I will also launch a more profound discussion as those answers will depend upon the moral implications and ethics around them.
AI and Big Data combined will transform and empower every person, organization and every process in the world across all economic fields making them cost wiser, more efficient and more productive, and all simultaneously. Exactly! That is an unprecedented level of wealth generation and at an unimaginable scale. If we consider that the Global annual GDP grows steadily around 3% in average as The World Bank report, within currently economic parameters, imagine what will help with every productive person and organization of the planet will have less operational costs, improve productivity and efficiency.
To explain that, we need to zoom in a small business, understand the technologies possibilities and impact. So, imagine a small neighborhood restaurant for example. It is not a simple task to create a profitable operation with positive cash flow in a low scale business, with high operating costs like food and utilities, and so labor intensive. To be lucrative, the manager will have to acquire a loyal customer base and keep them happy. Control costs like utilities and kitchenware yet buying proper ingredients at the right quantity and quality, managing the payroll and flexible schedules, keep the chef innovative and motivated, and the premises clean in a nice ambiance.
THE TECH PUSH
Now the same restaurant three decades from now is running with a spectrum of new technologies. Three decades from now it is safe to project that big data companies cooperate more and will accumulate and integrate new fields of data about our habits and consumption patterns and making them publicly available. It will not be difficult for this restaurant to acquire an app that will help to project demand and target the right audience. The app will cross their customer base habits and aggregated data with the same averages of the ones in their geography. And they will know precisely how many loyal customers come to their store, how frequent, what they consume, the average price paid by the wine bottle, how many eat dessert, how each menu item is publicly ranked and how to correct displayed prices to be attractive. Not only that but how that behavior changed last year, month, day and hour, and how their customers rate the restaurants in the region and the aspects about they are especially picky. And more, what they will be more likely to consume the next day or week, the average age group and ethnicity coming to the restaurant by the hour and so play the best playlist every hour, which will help to maximize consumption, and if the manager wants it, all automated. With that information, chefs can plan the menu according to trends, and clientele preferences and the app will help to understand how successful each new dish will be. The app will also stimulate more effective ingredients adoption and hybrid cuisine dishes introductions. The app will help to break down the menu in a shopping list and project consumption according to future demand, procure them at the right quantity per day, at the best price and get it delivered timely while scheduling employees to be on point for those deliveries. The app will help to hire the appropriate staff for each hour of the day and plan waiters profile to match the customer profile in each period. It can also balance the hourly rate cost of the staff members with their professional online reviews and automatically hire the best of the crop the restaurant can afford. The restaurant now has guidelines for innovation, efficient inventory management, reduced waste and utility consumption. The manager can also get information where is the ideal location to open a second store. A third. And so on.
Another app will help the manager run promotions and marketing campaigns tailored to attract the right audience at the right volume to keep the restaurant full most of the time, with the most lucrative crowd. Learning algorithms will maximize menu and wine options, daily specials and ambiance features to appeal to the variable customer influx. Once again, all automated, all the manager will have to do is to tell Alexa, Siri or Cortana s/he is ok to run customer acquisition campaigns and what profit level s/he expects. Customers are happier now about those menu options and the wine list. More people buy desserts, spend and tip more.
All operations around the restaurant are more efficient than before. Deliveries for the restaurant are cheaper now as they come in driverless trucks or drones. Packages were designed to cater small businesses with practical quantities and ingredients are modified to make preparation more efficient. Employees are trained and evaluated before they get engaged. Smart equipment (IOT) maintenance is automatically scheduled and performed at the best hour and the right moment to avoid shutdowns.
In summary, total expenses are significantly down. The operation is more efficient than before. The restaurant sells more by being always full and leveraging a higher average ticket. Profits have climbed to new highs. Good news.
WILL WE BE ABLE TO AFFORD ?
All that technology will be applied to every business, person and organization in the planet. There will be wealth generation at unprecedented levels. A lot of new cash and growth, an excellent problem to address. We can project Global GDP going back to the late 60's and 70" level of 5 or 6% annually, and maybe even reach new highs. All positive news but there is one catch though, and we will need to address. For all that to happen, customers of the restaurant need to be able to afford the meal. We are going through the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, a profound digital revolution. Drawing from the previous three other similar instances in history we can see a clear pattern. All of them have boosted economic output to new levels, financing a better quality of life, more convenience and more technology development in all fields. The inconvenient truth is to reach that new level, in all three previous cases, we saw the displacement of regular workers in significant numbers, and the occurrence of expected social disarrays before the establishment of a new norm surged. It is plausible to assume a similar pattern this time and act fast to minimize the impact on millions of workers and families, mainly the middle-class that will be the primary target of the new technologies deployment. Businesses will bloom but how will you afford the dinner if you have no job. I will cover that in my next article at collectivebrains.org.
What will be the critical skills in the workplace twenty years from now? That question is haunting workers and parents of future workers aware that we are on the brink of profound changes in the workplace. The better we get prepared for that future, smoother will be the transition.
The fourth industrial revolution, powered by digital technologies is disrupting every business model and pre-conceived notion of value creation and consequently, work. Technologies like Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics can replace human labor where we have not deemed possible before. Areas that require high cognition and contextualization, tasks demanding perception, discernment, comprehension, or insights, are no longer a challenge to the new bots. Smarter algorithms are challenging creativity and innovation, areas where machines will potentially replace humans with advantages too - including music and literature. New generative algorithms can be faster and more productive than scientists. Considering technology development do not follow our linear thinking but grows exponentially, we can imagine what those machines will be doing in ten years beyond driving our cars. Touché!
Not a big fan of the Armageddon of jobs.
It was entertaining to watch Kasparov being defeated by Deep Blue in 1997 for the first time, but that event started to pave the road for machine superiority. AI machines can process more data, cross more information and now interpret them faster and more efficiently than us. And more importantly, more and more information is available about everything and everyone - every choice made, product purchased, image pictured, and service registered - making impossible for our human brains to process all that, online, real time. We will need our AI friends to expand our cognitive skills, to find new solutions and break into new models. They will help us to make obsolete toxic workplaces and co-workers, bullying managers, unproductive meetings and even the payroll.
Our jobs will radically change in nature, function, and duration. We might keep witnessing the growth of the gig economy for a while, but I firmly believe those jobs will tend to be replaced by machines eventually, as the economies of scale are tremendous - imagine what a robotic manicure can bring regarding scale and innovation to customers. And at a fraction of the cost.
The real demand in the future will live on the high end of both the intellectual and emotional spectra. In a world where computers can do the labor, we will focus on moving science and human condition ahead. High intellectual development has always required simultaneous moral and ethics evolution. It is easy to see the events around nuclear weapons, clones and space exploration where some of the most desperate discussions are precisely the ethics around them and how to use those technologies to the wellbeing of humankind. Artificial Intelligence will require the same and maybe more and will throw most of us into new careers, willing it or not.
Multiple, Transferable and Affective Skills
Based on the lessons of previous high impact innovation adoption, I project three types of skills that will be in high demand within one or two decades. They are multiple professional skills, transferable skills, and affective skills.
Most of the high intellectual jobs demand will happen on the crossing of two or more professions. If e-discovery eliminates the need for Jr. Counselors and Paralegal's, on the other end, we will need Lawyers with Computing Science skills to create new algorithms, for example. If robots will master small surgeries and replicate them at scale, we will need more research doctors with mechatronic skills to develop and test new procedures. Before tapping into the job market, college students should define their area of interest and learn which professions combined are impacting that field. Education is a must.
Most of the intellectual work in the future will be developed collectively. Collaboration, communication skills, and teamwork, for example, will be critical to any job in any area. Those skills will be essential for one to perform in new environments, mostly virtual, and get things done with and through others. The exciting aspect is that most of those skills once mastered can be applied in any job or project. Professionals should carefully choose what transferable skills they want to learn and how to demonstrate them in every engagement.
It is clear by now that most of the jobs we understand as middle-class ones like management, supervision and office jobs will be gone fast. We will have more free time and live longer. We will need to take care of each other more and dedicate more time to our children education. We will have a demand to discuss ethics and moral in many new business areas. Our social efforts will be intensified, and public organizations will demand new services and new professionals. It will be a time where lots of new jobs will require compassion and humane approach. It is time to grow as human beings beyond our intellects and learn how to be kind and help each other. Empathy, sympathy, caring, generosity, altruism and sense of community will define our professional success more than our hard skills.
Join us at collectivebrains to discuss the future of jobs and education, and to help us find and invest in the best solutions.