Learn­ing to lead in the 4th In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion

Ed­u­ca­tion plays a cen­tral role in our prospects of suc­ceed­ing in the 4th in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

Mail & Guardian - - Careers - Pro­fes­sor Al­wyn Louw

Through­out the ages, global rev­o­lu­tions have cre­ated di­men­sional changes in the way the world works. How­ever, the true im­pact of ev­ery one of these rev­o­lu­tions, whether po­lit­i­cal, in­dus­trial or digital, has not been the result of the ac­tual ad­vances that have driven them, but rather the ef­fect they have had to fun­da­men­tally trans­form the sys­tems within which peo­ple ex­ist and func­tion.

The same is true of the so-called Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion in which the world cur­rently finds it­self. While a one-di­men­sional view of this rev­o­lu­tion is that it is all about the con­ver­gence and dis­rup­tive ef­fect of tech­nol­ogy; the most im­por­tant out­come of this rev­o­lu­tion will, in fact, be the im­pact that it will in­evitably have on hu­man well­be­ing.

With this in mind, the re­sponse of mankind to this rev­o­lu­tion should not fo­cus on op­ti­mis­ing tech­nol­ogy purely for com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage or prof­itabil­ity. Rather, we need to pri­ori­tise the op­ti­mi­sa­tion and har­ness­ing of rapid tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances for the pur­pose of en­hanc­ing hu­man de­vel­op­ment.

Achiev­ing this type of sys­tems op­ti­mi­sa­tion for hu­man well­be­ing is made very challenging by the nar­row fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual sur­vival and or­gan­i­sa­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness that the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion has en­cour­aged. How­ever, this preser­va­tion fo­cus is tak­ing our eyes off the big­ger, ar­guably more im­por­tant ques­tion, which is how do we as a hu­man col­lec­tive re­spond to the dis­rup­tion around us in a way that takes the un­pre­dictabil­ity out of this new world sys­tem and moves us all for­ward, to­gether, as a hu­man race?

It’s not an easy ques­tion to ask. And it’s even more dif­fi­cult to an­swer. But it de­mands a re­sponse if the world is to have any hope of emerg­ing from this Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion with its hu­man­ity in­tact.

Ul­ti­mately, ed­u­ca­tion has an ab­so­lutely vi­tal role to play. The break­neck pace at which the world is de­vel­op­ing is creating new so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, in­dus­trial and digital sys­tems.

As ed­u­ca­tors, our first re­ac­tion must be to play a role in en­abling those who pass through our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems to harness this new way of liv­ing and work­ing in or­der to lead the world within these new ecosys­tems and en­sure they pro­mote and en­able sus­tain­able hu­man well­be­ing. And nowhere is this need for an im­pact­ful re­sponse to chang­ing so­cial and in­dus­trial par­a­digms more im­por­tant than in de­vel­op­ing re­gions like Africa.

One of the big­gest risks posed by the rapid and mas­sive con­ver­gence of tech­nol­ogy, par­tic­u­larly for these de­vel­op­ing worlds, is that peo­ple do not, and will not, have the ca­pac­ity to fully harness the op­por­tu­ni­ties it presents to ben­e­fit hu­man de­vel­op­ment. To mit­i­gate this risk, ed­u­ca­tion needs to adapt - and do so ex­tremely quickly.

If my re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences with many lead­ers of ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions across the con­ti­nent has shown me any­thing it is that our ed­u­ca­tion mind­sets re­main largely bogged down by tra­di­tional think­ing - the most preva­lent of which is the con­cept that peo­ple go through ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems to pre­pare them for a job.

That is, quite sim­ply, no longer the case. The days of job se­cu­rity are long gone. As ed­u­ca­tors, we should no longer be ask­ing our young learn­ers what they want to be one day, but rather what they in­tend on ac­com­plish­ing; what they want to change; and what con­tri­bu­tion they in­tend on mak­ing to the world.

Then we need to com­pletely over­haul our ed­u­ca­tion ap­proach. The fo­cus can­not be on churn­ing out en­gi­neers, ac­coun­tants and lawyers who only pos­sess the knowl­edge to do the job for which they stud­ied. In­stead the key out­come of our mod­ern ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems needs to be the de­vel­op­ment of in­no­va­tors and lead­ers with the abil­ity to iden­tify trends, eval­u­ate sys­tems, pin­point op­por­tu­ni­ties, drive change, and most im­por­tantly, have an im­pact on the world - ir­re­spec­tive of what line of work they end up do­ing.

Ul­ti­mately, the se­cu­rity and re­silience of to­mor­row’s em­ploy­ees does not lie in their abil­ity to do a job. It is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to their abil­ity to adapt and their ca­pac­ity to harness the con­stant flow of new knowl­edge to cre­ate the to­mor­row they de­sire - for them­selves, and their fel­low man. And un­less ed­u­ca­tion is en­abling them to achieve this, it is not re­al­is­ing its full po­ten­tial, nor de­liv­er­ing on its re­spon­si­bil­ity, to con­trib­ute to that fu­ture.

with Stan­dard Bank, at a one-of-of a kind con­flu­ence of global ed­u­ca­tors, in­dus­try, gov­ern­ment bod­ies and thought lead­ers. Fa­cil­i­tated by lead­ing in­ter­na­tional thinker, Peter Cochrane, for­mer CTO at BT, Cochrane will be en­gag­ing at­ten­dees on how to best nav­i­gate the rapid dis­rup­tion brought on by the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. Read more:

Pro­fes­sor Al­wyn Louw, pres­i­dent: Monash South Africa. Photo Sup­plied

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