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Life is a tablet

The world in 2050 will be unrecognizable, and the people needed to provide it equally unrecognizable. Schools will need to teach the four Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

It’s the first and last that I’d put most emphasis on. Mental flexibility is going to be essential. There’s no point in learning how to provide basic customer support services; if Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to do it for you, better. Why learn to solve differential equations when a tap on a smart screen will give you an immediate answer? Why learn Chinese when a Google translate app will do it for you?

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The younger generation will need to be flexible in what they can do, imaginative in creating a life for themselves, innovative in their thinking in a way that was never needed before.

AI and nanotechnology will rule our lives; they are already beginning to. The jobs you think you’d like to do won’t be there. Want to be a doctor? Machines already provide more accurate diagnosis, and will replace all but the most specialized doctors, who we will still need. What doctors are left will need to be technicians, able to manipulate complex machines.

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We will still need psychiatrists, too, to deal with the problems in our minds, because robots won’t be able to do that. Lawyers? AI can search the legal records in seconds, in milliseconds — and bring up even obscure cases that can win a court battle.

Robots will dominate the future. So where does humanity fit in?

Well, fortunately, it still does in areas AI just can’t adapt to. Essentially that’s in the emotional relationships between people, and areas where automation won’t be viable. It will be ones where individual initiative or human care is needed. It’s hard to get affection from a lump of plastic and steel. Robots are not really lovable (except to us engineers), but nurses are. You might replace some of the mundane activities of nurses, but never the tender, loving care a human can give.

My profession won’t be easily replaced; you’ll still need electricians. The individuality of wiring in every house is different, and robots won’t easily adapt to that. But auto mechanics will go as they’re presently taught. They’ll need to be electricians first, mechanics second, with computer expertise thrown in. So, we’ll need tradesmen, but with new skill sets. Cars will be electric and automatic — you won’t need a driver’s license anymore.

There’ll be jobs for seafarers, but not for long. Ships are going automatic, like cars. You’ll just need a captain and a handful of assistants. Some shipping companies are already trying automation out. Airline pilots will still be around, but the plane will do most of the flying by itself. But I don’t see airline hostesses and hosts being replaced any time soon; the personal attention remains a must.

That’s what much of it comes down to: Personal attention just can’t be duplicated by a robot. Oh, maybe 50 years from now when humans and robots intermingle, but unlikely in your working life.

Teachers will still be needed, too; that personal interaction is a major stimulator of the developing brain, although maybe that will also change. Whenever I see a baby in a stroller with a tablet, I wonder if that baby’s brain may be being geared to learning by screen.

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Policemen will still be needed; every criminal action is different, so humans are just essential in catching them. Criminals will still be around, too. I don’t see robots ever wanting to steal. But I don’t suggest that kids take up that profession — the human policemen might catch them and put them in jail. Jails are nasty places, you wouldn’t enjoy them.

You can forget working at Jollibee, except for a very small staff. Robots will handle it all from cooking to packaging to delivery and, one mustn’t forget, accepting payment. In Japan, robots are already serving the food in some restaurants. You’ll still need chefs and servers in the more fancy restaurants though, and those smaller ones that are on their own, run by the family.

One industry kids shouldn’t walk away from is farming. Mechanization can replace much of the hard work, but people or farmers will still be needed. Money can be made from it if you pick the right crop and modernize its production.

We are moving into a world where change is the only certainty.

We need a revolution in thinking, and acting on our kid’s education.

E-mail: [email protected]

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TAGS: adaptability, AI, artificial intelligence, Like It Is, mental flexibility, nanotechnology, Peter Wallace
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