My latest guest post on TheGuardian: The future of knowledge and learning in the coming era of intelligent machines

My latest contribution on TheGuardian just went live, here. Download the PDF: The future of knowledge in the coming era of intelligent machines | Futurist Gerd Leonhard TheGuardian I think I managed to nail a few important points in this piece – here are some highlights:

Technology is inadvertently making great progress in replacing human workers in pretty much every industry, whether it is in accounting, media, marketing, manufacturing or financial services. Just witness the recent rise of restaurants that simply give you an iPad to order your food instead of sending a waitress to your table – 30-50% fewer employees needed, in one swoop. Then, look at what the Kiwi startup Xero will be doing to those who work in accounting or imagine 100s of 1000s of self-driving cars swarming in big cities (no cabbie needed) and you know where this is going: human labour is being disposed of at pace and the way we learn is heading for a total reboot

The consequences of this inevitable rise of smart machines, robots, artificial intelligence and so-called cognitive computing are clear: our future does not lie competing in jobs such as information storage, data processing and repetitive computational tasks – smart machines are certain to beat us, hands down. Rather, our future lies in being more human and less like machines (listen up, MBA students). In this future, making mistakes, failing, not complying and creatively destroying things are some of the key skills on which we will be able to beat machines for quite some time…

Human-only knowledge is undetachable from actually having a body, as is aptly demonstrated in Spike Jonze’s latest masterpiece Her. Yes, machines can indeed emulate, copy and approximate, but without a body – and all that difficult human stuff that comes with it, such as emotions – they are not even close to replacing us in what really matters…

I foresee a future, a decade or less away, where up to 50% of all jobs don’t yet exist, or currently exist only as a singular skill or character trait. Imagine jobs such as “right-brain therapists” or a “simplicity designers” (see Mashable’s great list of 2020 jobs), or of course, any new job related to designing, managing and controlling all that intelligent technology around us (“AI supervisor”, anyone?)…

In the future, beyond merely acquiring some kind of unique ad-hoc knowledge and understanding based on ubiquitous, machine-curated information, it will be even more paramount to arrive at a highly individual kind of wisdom based on it. The goal will be to attain something that transcends mere data streams and creates real value, much like a painter’s value is not in the paint but in the picture. We need to unlearn the habit of acting like machines and relearn how to act like human!

Update: related video: The Future Show with Gerd Leonhard, season 1 episode 3: the future of work and jobs.

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