A GCSE in En­light­en­ment

Meet­ing Corn­wall’s bright­est and best stu­dents proved a chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Cornwall Life - - CLASSIC CORNWALL -

Ire­cently found my­self in a lec­ture theatre at Fal­mouth Univer­sity at an Any Ques­tions style event shar­ing a panel with some of the good and great of the Cor­nish busi­ness com­mu­nity. We were fac­ing ques­tions from a col­lec­tion of the bright­est GCSE stu­dents in Corn­wall about the fu­ture of work.

Prior to the event I had vi­sions that I would be de­liv­er­ing the wis­dom of my many years to the ea­ger, young ears who would lap it all up with grat­i­tude and en­thu­si­asm. Well, their ears were def­i­nitely younger and ea­ger, but that is about where the vi­sion ended. The stu­dents’ ques­tion­ing was so in­sight­ful that I am sure that I came away more en­light­ened than them.

The chal­lenges they threw out in the ques­tion­ing ranged from our cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tion to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to health, hap­pi­ness and, yes, even world peace.

The most en­light­en­ing strand of the de­bate was their un­der­stand­ing and con­cern about the im­pli­ca­tions of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to their lives and ca­reers. What safe ca­reers should they pur­sue to avoid be­ing re­placed by ma­chine in­tel­li­gence? I had to ad­mit that it was not some­thing I had spent much time on in my empty head mo­ments. When I did en­gage the lit­tle grey cells (well what is left of them) it turned some of my ‘ac­cepted’ think­ing about jobs on its head. The tra­di­tional think­ing in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is that we should be look­ing to cre­ate ‘knowl­edge’ jobs to se­cure the fu­ture of the Cor­nish econ­omy. That is jobs which re­quire us to re­tain and process in­for­ma­tion. But com­put­ers are re­ally good at that, so per­haps we hu­mans should be stick­ing to the things that com­put­ers strug­gle with, things that re­quire a high de­gree of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. Maybe our fu­ture is in ser­vice and re­la­tion­ship build­ing which is much harder for a com­puter pro­gramme to learn.

In that world, a job serv­ing peo­ple could be a safer op­tion than a knowl­edge job. So, in the new world or­der, we may find that al­low­ing com­put­ers to re­trieve and in­ter­pret knowl­edge more ef­fi­ciently gives us time to serve one another whether that is in travel and leisure or mak­ing sure that we are com­fort­able in our old age. And the im­proved pro­duc­tiv­ity de­liv­ered by our dig­i­tal friends might even al­low us to re­ward the peo­ple who look af­ter us and serve us bet­ter than we do now.


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