Aussies have been urged to embrace certain subjects as a way of future-proofing their careers but one expert says we’ve been given the wrong advice.
Over the years many young Australians have been urged to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM for short — but one Sydney futurist has some very different advice.
With technology playing an increasing role in our lives, it’s not surprising that many in the industry and within government have urged young people to engage with the concepts that look set to change their lives.
Skills shortages in areas like cyber security, data and software development could also lead many to think they taking a smart path and training for jobs with a future.
However, futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson has a slightly different view.
For the last 13 years, Mr Sorman-Nilsson has consulted with some of the biggest companies in the world including Facebook, Apple and Mercedes Benz, helping them to understand how to future-proof their businesses.
When it comes to the jobs of the future, Mr Sorman-Nilsson said people should think deeply about the skills that would be needed.
“Don’t listen to the Government when it says to only learn code and STEM,” he told news.com.au.
“Computers can do logic and maths better than a human.”
Mr Sorman-Nilsson believes embracing technology is important but parents should be encouraging their children to also improve their skills in areas that computers weren’t good at, such as creativity and emotional intelligence.
“They’ve got to recognise that human and creative qualities really need to be nurtured to differentiate them in the future,” he said.
Re-engineering Australia (REA) executive chairman Dr Michael Myers agreed with Mr Sorman-Nilsson and said the focus of education should be on lifelong learning and how to use knowledge.
REA consults with industry and runs STEM programs in public and private schools around the country. Mr Myers said tools like Google have made it easy for people gain access to information and it was now about developing the skills to understand and apply that knowledge.
“It’s about analytical problem solving and communication,” he said.
“Kids still need to learn maths and science but only in context,” he said.
Mr Myer said industry was overwhelmingly asking for “soft” or “enterprise” skills.
“The skills that people want are about team work, collaboration, communication, problem solving and innovation.”
WE ARE ALREADY IN A FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
It is Mr Sorman-Nilsson’s view that the world is already in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution described by the founder of the World Economic Forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, as potentially challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
Mr Sorman-Nilsson believes we’ve lived through a third revolution marked by the rise of computers and is predicting the next change will merge physical, digital and biological worlds.
“In the years to come, the world will look like a hugely different place, where humanity and technology merge like never before,” Mr Sorman-Nilsson said.
“Science fiction is fast becoming science fact.”
Mr Sorman-Nilsson said people had already started to evolve into “cyborgs”, whose mental and physical abilities were being extended courtesy of technology like artificial limbs and the cochlear implant, a device that is surgically implanted into a person’s inner ear to help people hear better.
The development and popularity of these tech fixes will only continue to gather speed with some fascinating results.
Mr Sorman-Nilsson believes eventually we will embrace these technological enhancements so much we will evolve into “transhumans”.
In order to adapt to this new future, Mr Sorman-Nilsson believes people need to stop thinking of humans as humans, and robots as robots.
Getting rid of the “us versus them” mentality can make the changes feel less intimidating, and he believes this will allow people to focus on how technology is being developed by transhumans for transhumans.
This may sound like a wild idea, but Mr Sorman-Nilsson believes humans need to get used to concepts like this if they are going to thrive in the future.
GET CURIOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE TO SURVIVE
The integration of technological and physical systems will also be seen in our homes.
Samsung already has a $6000 smart fridge with built-in cameras that can be accessed remotely and a touchscreen that can be used for watching TV and ordering groceries. Nespresso has developed a coffee machine that can be controlled using a smartphone.
Eventually. fridges will be able to order milk automatically when supplies are running low, and coffee machines will be smart enough to start a morning brew after being alerted by someone’s wearable device they have woken early.
“It might seem futuristic but these things already exist in the world,” Mr Sorman-Nilsson said.
“It’s been said the future is already here, it’s just being distributed unevenly.”
These developments could have positive and negative consequences, and Mr Sorman-Nilsson said it was important to be aware of privacy settings and to change passwords frequently.
“Recently, a casino in the US was hacked and real money was lost because a hacker broke in using the internet connected fish tank,” he said.
Many worry that humans are headed for a dystopian future, but Mr Sorman-Nilsson said it could equally be a utopia for those who embraced it.
“In many ways this revolution could be very disruptive for individuals or companies not adapted to change,” he said.
“But it could also be the greatest time to be alive if you are adapted, willing to change and evolve to a new reality.”
Some potential advantages of the technological changes include allowing businesses to be able to “be global from day one”.
Factories of the future could use virtual reality to predict potential problems on production lines and avoid accidents. Autonomous cars could also reduce deaths due to human error.
If your car breaks down, rather than waiting three weeks for a new part to be shipped from overseas, it may be possible to 3D print a new part. The rise of 3D printing could also lead to organs being printed using human stem cells.
In every industry Mr Sorman-Nilsson said people should get curious about the humanising impact of technologies.
He’s noticed the more his clients learn about new products, the more excited they become about the potential.
“I think one of the first things we should do is to learn about technology and not be worried about it,” he told news.com.au.
Even just watching a few sci-fi movies might help to get people used to concepts around artificial intelligence. Playing with technologies can also help.
“It’s hard to learn to think about a computer without ever having used a computer,” he said.
“Go to an Apple store, attend a workshop and find out how consumer technologies can improve your life. Experiment.
“Get serious about technology and learn more about it.”
ANDERS’ EXPERT TIPS ON PLANNING FOR THE REVOLUTION:
Be open to unlearning everything you know
Shift from a reactive mindset to a proactive one. Analyse how automation and technology will impact your industry. This can lead to simple corrections, such as business owners changing the types of training staff are doing.
Stop thinking of humans as humans, and robots as robots
By understanding that people have already started to evolve into cyborgs, whose mental and physical abilities are being improved through technology and artificial limbs etc, the transition can be less intimidating.
Think more about the past to change the future
New technologies have the potential to fix issues that have posed a problem in the past. For example, 3D printing can allow car parts to be printed at lower cost, and companies like Ford are already using this technology. People and companies should be reassessing whether problems they have struggled with in the past can now be fixed and to start realising that every company is now a technology company.