Tag: economy

The robot economy and social-emotional skills

Ben Williamson writes:

The steady shift of the knowledge economy into a robot economy, characterized by machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation and data analytics, is now bringing about changes in the ways that many influential organizations conceptualize education moving towards the 2020s. Although this is not an epochal or decisive shift in economic conditions, but rather a slow metamorphosis involving machine intelligence in the production of capital, it is bringing about fresh concerns with rethinking the purposes and aims of education as global competition is increasingly linked to robot capital rather than human capital alone.

A plethora of reports and pronouncements by ‘thought-leaders’ and think tanks warn us about a medium-term future where jobs are ‘under threat’. This has a concomitant impact on education:

The first is that education needs to de-emphasize rote skills of the kind that are easy for computers to replace and stress instead more digital upskilling, coding and computer science. The second is that humans must be educated to do things that computerization cannot replace, particularly by upgrading their ‘social-emotional skills’.

A few years ago, I remember asking someone who ran different types of coding bootcamps which would be best approach for me. Somewhat conspiratorially, he told me that I didn’t need to learn to code, I just needed to learn how to manage those who do the coding. As robots and AI become more sophisticated and can write their own programs, I suspect this ‘management’ will include non-human actors.

Of all of the things I’ve had to learn for and during my (so-called) career, the hardest has been gaining the social-emotional skills to work remotely. This isn’t an easy thing to unpack, especially when we’re all encouraged to have a ‘mission’ in life and to be emotionally invested in our work.

Williams notes:

The OECD’s Andreas Schleicher is especially explicit about the perceived strategic importance of cultivating social-emotional skills to work with artificial intelligence, writing that ‘the kinds of things that are easy to teach have become easy to digitise and automate. The future is about pairing the artificial intelligence of computers with the cognitive, social and emotional skills, and values of human beings’.

Moreover, he casts this in clearly economic terms, noting that ‘humans are in danger of losing their economic value, as biological and computer engineering make many forms of human activity redundant and decouple intelligence from consciousness’. As such, human emotional intelligence is seen as complementary to computerized artificial intelligence, as both possess complementary economic value. Indeed, by pairing human and machine intelligence, economic potential would be maximized.

[…]

The keywords of the knowledge economy have been replaced by the keywords of the robot economy. Even if robotization does not pose an immediate threat to the future jobs and labour market prospects of students today, education systems are being pressured to change in anticipation of this economic transformation.

I’m less bothered about Schleicher’s link between social-emotional skills and the robot economy. I reckon that, no matter what time period you live in, there are knowledge and skills you need to be successful when interacting with other human beings.

That being said, there are ways of interacting with machines that are important to learn to get ahead. I stand by what I said in 2013 about the importance of including computational thinking in school curricula. To me, education is about producing healthy, engaged citizens. They need to understand the world around them, be (digitally) confident in it, and have the conceptual tools to be able to problem-solve.

Source: Code Acts in Education

Life in the outrage economy

Rafael Behr nails it when he says we live in an ‘outrage economy’:

Rage is contagious. It spreads from one sweaty digital crevice to the next, like a fungal infection. It itches like one too. When sitting at the keyboard, it is difficult to perceive wrongness without wanting to scratch it with a caustic retort. But that provides no sustained relief. One side’s scratch is the other side’s itch.

I’m just back from watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s an incredible film with plenty of social commentary. The Rebel Alliance is outraged at what the First Order is doing, just as we’re outraged with the order of our society, created by elites.

An outrage economy is lucrative only in an outraged society. Once stoked, the anger becomes self-sustaining, addictive. There is a physiological gratification in rage – a primitive adrenal response that overrides more sophisticated emotions. It can be perversely comforting. Politicised anger feels virtuous. It is the kick of moral purpose, but conveniently stripped of any obligation to consider nuance or alternative perspectives. Hatred of a proposition, or a party, removes interest in understanding why others like it. Self-righteous anger is an excuse not to even try to persuade. St Augustine’s invitation to “love the sinner, hate the sin” does not have much purchase on Twitter.

Perhaps we need to ‘use the force’ and come into a bit more balance, both individually and as a society. After all, more outrage just feeds the whole edifice from which the bad guys prosper.

Source: The Guardian

Howard Rheingold on cooperation as a solution to our present woes

Howard Rheingold is one of the smartest and most colourful people I’ve ever met. One of his books, Net Smart, was very useful to me while writing my thesis, and I’ve followed his work for a while now.

That’s why I’m delighted that he’s commenting on our current predicament around the technology that connects our society. He’s suggesting some ways forward — including platform co-operatives.

Questions about the threats of technology often come down to the nature of capitalism: The microtargetted advertising that makes Facebook a conduit for hyperpersonalized propaganda is precisely what makes Facebook such a valuable medium for paid advertising — which is what returns profit to Facebook’s stockholders. So what can be done about that? Some argue that because communism failed, there is no alternative remedy. Yet we are seeing potential alternatives beginning to emerge: while platform cooperativism and profit-from-purpose businesses are relatively new, successful cooperative corporations have existed for more than a century. What other models can be added to this list? Can any central principles or points of leverage be inductively derived by examining these alternatives.

Source: Howard Rheingold