What Will We Learn, When We No Longer Need To?

We continue the weekly series of articles written by the speakers who will be appearing at LEARNING LIVE – today we hear from Nick Shackleton-Jones.

Have a look at this video:

It’s a deep learning AI that takes all the hard work out of creating art from simple sketches. Scribble something, and the computer does the rest. As the authors suggest, this has applications ranging from architecture to game creation. Could we create movies this way? Probably (based on some I have seen recently).

Now even a six-year old can be an architect. Wait, what?

Stand back and consider the next logical step: why sketch at all? Why not simply say ‘Alexa, I want a big building – more windows – spiral stairs. More glass. I want it to fit between those two buildings.’ Alexa takes care of all the details. How much would you pay someone who can do that? Are you getting the picture?

This is not science-fiction. We already accomplished it with taxi-driving; we’re doing it with food (‘Alexa, get me a pizza’). But what does it all mean? Where is it leading?

Human history can be seen as an extension of homeostasis – the mechanism that drives organisms to seek better conditions. Learning was big leap forwards – not only could organisms remember the bad places, it even allowed us to build better places. Homes, nests, hives. Eventually it enabled us to create systems that removed the need to learn at all – for example, automatically translating other languages.

You can already buy skills. Have a look at the screenshot below. Note that in this interface ‘Your Skills’ does not mean ‘The skills you have’ but ‘The AI skills you are renting’. Of course, it’s early days.

In our future world, AI means that almost any job can be done by anyone – meaning businesses don’t have to pay people nearly so much – dramatically reducing their resourcing costs. Some businesses have already started using pigeons in place of people (turns out pigeons are actually pretty smart). All you need to do is pair them up with AI.*

If (as I have argued elsewhere) learning is driven by our cares – what will we learn in a world where all of our cares are instantly taken care of?

In answering these kinds of questions, humans are optimists; they like to imagine that (other) people will always want to learn. So let me ask you a simple question: what ancient skills that are no longer needed are you currently learning?

*This is science fiction ;o)

About the author – Nick Shackleton Jones: 

Transfixed by the task of understanding people, technology and the challenges of integrating the two, Nick began his career as a psychology lecturer and author. He has since worked in consultancy, Siemens, the BBC and BP in roles encompassing learning strategy, leadership, culture, innovation and technology. A memorable conference speaker and well-known in the corporate learning world for ground-breaking thinking and work, he divides his time equally between being disruptive and provocative.

Nick was the winner of the prestigious Colin Corder Award at the 2017 Learning Awards

Follow Nick on Twitter @shackletonjones

Connect with Nick via LinkedIn 

See Nick Shackleton-Jones live when he takes part in Learning Live in September – simply click here for further information.

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