As noted above, the new technology is expected to result in significant changes in the mix of occupations and thus the skills required of those jobs remaining and new jobs. There are two major implications of this for education. First, the skills that will be in demand, and thus should be the focus of education, are changing. West (2018) argues that the types of jobs at the least risk of being replaced by automation involve problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking, communication, and creativity. Second, given the rapid technological, organizational, and economic transition, it will be imperative that people develop new capabilities throughout their lifetime, i.e., engage in lifelong learning (West 2018). But in addition, a possible consequence of the new technology is that the economic returns to education could fall, which could likely reduce the amount of education that individuals acquire.
Related, Bandelli (2017) states that the skills needed in order to work today are changing so fast that no education system can keep up with the constant need to reinvent how we work and live together. Most importantly, the radical changes in our society mean that young people need new kinds of skills, many of which are not even fully understood or codified for learning. She argues that, today, the new fluencies we need include emotional intelligence, intercultural sensitivity, creativity, problem formulation (rather than problem solving), economic citizenship, empathy, adaptability, and resilience.
Autor (2018) notes that as a result of the agricultural revolution in the late 1800s and early 1900s, agricultural employment dropped rapidly. The response, driven by farm states, was to expand the required time in school to 12 years. It was expensive, and many people thought it was a frivolous investment. But in retrospect, it proved invaluable. Today, the new technology has given rise to calls that stress the increased importance of education, and for better and different education, including higher education. However, the discussions we uncovered do not provide particularly specific or well-researched proposals for change, nor do they address how the desired skill sets can be “taught.”
Levesque (2018) provides a summary discussion of the future role of education, focusing on K-12 education. As others have also suggested, Levesque states that K-12 education needs to help students develop the “21st century skills” and thus prioritize teaching critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork across subject areas. In addition, proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) should be a priority. Developing and providing lifelong learning opportunities will be central to helping displaced workers find new career pathways.
Levesque goes on to note that the new technology can provide teachers with valuable resources. She notes that blended or personalized learning uses emerging technology to help teachers personalize education for individual students. In addition, the new technology can be used to “create scalable resources that support large numbers of students and others as they navigate education, training, and career pathways. Promising innovations include a conversational AI system that uses personalized text message outreach to help incoming college students complete required pre-matriculation tasks.” Trajtenberg (2018) makes a similar case, and goes on to suggest that education needs to shift from the “factory model” to “personalized education.”
A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2017) explores the implications of the new technology for the skilled workforce. It is the most in-depth report on this topic that we found, but it focuses on occupations that currently require less than a college degree. Related is a recent McKinsey Global Institute (2018) survey that found that among companies on the front lines of technological change, executives increasingly see investing in retraining and “upskilling” existing workers as an urgent business priority—but they also believe that this is an issue where corporations, not governments, must take the lead.
So the questions remain, what skills/training do current government and nonprofit workers need, what education/skills will future public sector workers need, who will provide it, and how will it provided?
The development of AI and IoT has led to discussions regarding the future of higher education. West (2018) discusses how the new technology is affecting the provision of education at all levels. Trajtenberg (2018) notes that school-like information is available at the tip of a finger, so there is less need for traditional classes in which the instructor stands in front of a class and delivers information. Furthermore, the rise of MOOCS and online-based teaching tools have potential implications for tertiary education.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2002) examined the possible implications of the new technologies for the research university—its activities (teaching, research, service, outreach) and its organization, management, and financing—and the impacts on the broader higher-education enterprise. The report suggests that changes will be profound, rapid, and discontinuous. The report is “old” in that AI and IoT were not as relevant in 2002 as they are today. However, some of their conclusions are perhaps still relevant, including:
- Technology will erode, and in some cases obliterate, higher education’s usual constraints of space and time. Institutional barriers will be reshaped and possibly transformed.
- The technology could drive a convergence of higher education with IT-intensive sectors such as publishing, telecommunications, and entertainment, creating a global “knowledge and learning” industry.
It is important that university strategies include: the development of sufficient in-house expertise among faculty and staff to track technological trends and assess various courses of action; the opportunity for experimentation; and the ability to form alliances with other academic institutions as well as with for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental organizations.
Return to the implications for Public Policy and related fields.
Return to the Implications section of the “Identifying the Landscape of New Technology” report.