How do we Prepare Students to Work in the Age of Intelligent Machines?

The Sac Bee is running a series called the Influencers, and I signed up to participate. A recent question was: “What should we ask our Influencers about education?” My response was “How do we prepare students to work in the Age of Intelligent Machines.”

One of the 5G application often referenced in studies is the introduction of self-driving cars and trucks, making the case that artificial intelligence (AI) and high-speed broadband are essential technologies to implement these automated transportation systems. As a result, I have been investigating AI, and its integration in machines often labeled as robots. It is clear that robots are here now and more introduced to the workplace and our communities over time. According to studies, the introduction of one industrial robot in the workplace replaces six jobs.

According to learned articles automation is changing the work and the workforce. According to an article in MIT Technology Review, “AI and Robots are wreaking economic havoc, and we need more of them.” Included in the current issue of MIT TR was an article on AI and Jobs, the authors making the point that manual labor is declining while the need for digital and human skills is soaring.

Between 2016 and 2030 the demand for various skills is rapidly changing with winners and losers:

Skills Chart

Children entering 1st Grade this year will be graduating in 2030 and choosing a career path. The choices today are on to college or enter the workforce. In some states there are apprentice programs for training in the trades, nursing, driving, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, or mechanics are some of the more recognizable. The question is will these be the choices in 2030? Given the infusion of AI and robotic technology in the workplace, the options could be severely reduced. Fewer jobs and the available jobs will require a higher level of skills.

My questions are what should we do to help prepare our children for the future workforce. Should we introduce computer coding starting in the first grade like they do in Estonia and be fully qualified IT technicians on high schools graduation? Should students be introduced to robots and robotic control systems in grade school?

Should social study classes include working with robotic devices that are interactive? Some observers studying the future of work in a cooperative environment were humans, and machines work together. The machines are doing the routine task and humans applying the higher cognitive skills. We are interacting with Siri and Alexa now, but when they are your everyday work companion, the interactive will be more intense and will demand social protocols.

My final question is how we will employ those that do not have high cognitive or technological skills?

I do not have any smart answers to my questions, and I am interested in readers comments.

Note:  The Sac Bee Influencers chose not to answer my question, but rather decided to look a reducing student hunger. Perhaps a more solvable problem.

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