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One Million Robots Competing for Work

Prof. Gabriel Mario Rodrigues

October 25th, 2017 | Author: Gabriel Mario Rodrigues

Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES, the Brazilian Association of Private Higher Education Owners

“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.” (Alvin Toffler)

There is a certain three-pronged myopia of an imaginary equilateral triangle: the school, the student, and the labor market, sometimes generating collisions and sometimes, on occasion, giving rise to achievements and satisfactions.

In the collisions, it resembles the phenomenon of waves of the sea (market) hitting the rock (school) and the mussel (student) suffering by the impacts. And the institutions that prepare human resources for work must be attentive to what Thomas Friedman writes in his book “Thanks for the Delay”, from where we removed some questions for reflection.

There is an exponential acceleration in the world due to the transformations of technology, its impact on the economy and the environment. The way things are, robots can even get all the jobs. But that will only happen if we give in. If we do not accelerate innovation in the fields of work and education. And if we do not rethink the whole course of education, from fundamental to continuous learning, coming to work. Everything changes and the school stays the same!!!

This task should begin with a frank discussion with the market about what professional profile companies need. And also, the state should be aware of the occupational diversity that its development requires to provide work. Just as the market ceased to be interested in student training, the school barely realized that, in reality, the market was its customer. They tired of insisting that the diploma is not everything, in a land of bureaucracy, and that the construction of daily life is not only done with masters and doctors degrees.

The market would be an intransigent being seeking above all else that the egress should have a formative quality and not only a role-diploma to be proud of, as ready for the battles of the world of business, industry, commerce, services, etc.?

Was the student disadvantaged by precarious training from elementary school and the continuity of his studies, because neither the public power nor the private initiative gave him a useful and applicable degree for his employability?

And does the school, always in the process of industrial, social and economic processes, defend itself against the scenario, and especially against globalization, losing ground in the world of knowledge, which means allowing low-wage jobs for its medium-term training? No news, no technology, no order to insert the individual into a highly competitive market?

There are still jobs, says Friedman, “with excellent salaries for excellent training. And there are still average wages for median training. But there are no longer high-paying jobs for a mid-level education. The average employee is an officially extinct category.”

Like everything else in the acceleration era, getting and keeping a job requires dynamic stability. More or less like when you ride a bike: you have to continue pedaling all the time, always, otherwise you will fall.

There are two questions hovering over the heads of individuals facing the labor market:

  1. How are you feeling, knowing that there are a million people in the world capable of doing your job?
  2. How are you feeling knowing that there are a million robots in the world capable of doing your job? (See below for a video on this terrifying question) – https://youtu.be/NO8PmqEI0cc

How should we begin, therefore? The answer is short, according to Byron Auguste, former economic adviser to President Obama. In the age of acceleration, we need to rethink three fundamental social contracts, starting with a clear picture of what is really happening in the labor market, in order to know exactly what we are trying to fix:

[1] between students and educational institutions – HRs will hire people based on what they can be proven to do, not just based on their curriculum, and they should also provide a number of avenues for in-company continuous learning.

[2] between workers and employers – Firms no longer have the patience to wait for universities to understand their market, adapt their curricula, hire the right teachers, and teach students new skills, especially when online educational platforms that are beginning to emerge are now doing it all faster and from scratch.

[3] between citizens and governments – Every possible incentive in terms of regulation and taxation must be created so that every enterprise can provide every worker with access to intelligent funding assistance for lifelong learning.

The contemporary situation is more than certain: all jobs are being pulled down faster, being outsourced by history and turned into something obsolete faster than ever. This requires a more entrepreneurial mindset, that is, a search for new niches, new opportunities to start something that can make a profit and generate jobs.

With this, we need our educational systems to be rethought by maximizing those skills and qualities required, with solid foundations for reading, writing, programming and mathematics, creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration, as well as self- entrepreneurship and attitudinal flexibilization.

Scavengers, things are changing or they are going to change a lot. In the US, in Needham, Massachusetts, for the specific purpose of establishing a new paradigm for engineering education, Olin College maintains a highly flexible structure capable of moving at the speed of the internet without internal organization by academic departments, and the body teacher does not have stability. In Japan, we have already shown the university that no longer works with curricula (Shure University).

There is no unanimity, but you cannot escape reality. Most of the jobs offered today do not require four years of college and nine out of the top ten occupations in the US, in terms of job vacancies, do not require more than a high school diploma. And this is no different here.

The question is how to make the transition to a different social contract, to promote the transition from education to work, to continuing lifelong learning in the age of accelerations.

In an age where people have a greater number of options for learning on their own, there are a surprising number of people who develop (or developed) skills on their own, but do not necessarily have certificates, diplomas or degrees in which employers became accustomed to trust.

It is collaborative human intelligence that builds artificial intelligence. And it should be wise to create machines that are helpful in overcoming the problems of this era of accelerations. The challenges of sustainability and global well-being are so great that they will only be overcome if the market, the school and the students unite their brains and their will and align them for survival purposes.