A GCSE in Enlightenment
Meeting Cornwall’s brightest and best students proved a challenging experience
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.