The spread of the Coronavirus virus has increased humans’ reliance on technology in almost all areas of work, in all aspects of societies, including the education of children. Haleema Khalid pens down some of the dangers that this new digital unlock in the time of Corona and increased reliance on technology may lead to.


nly by changing education can our children compete with machines. We cannot teach our kids to compete with machines. Teachers must stop teaching knowledge. We have to teach something unique, so a machine can never catch up with us.” That’s what Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, told audience. One may wonder what relevance does this proclamation hold in relation to the digital-unlock in the time of Coronavirus. The rapid spread of this dangerous pandemic is seen altering the social system of our planet. ‘Digital socialization’ is being infused swiftly in everything that deals with society, therefore, education is no exception.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma says we need to be teaching “our children values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork, care for others” to eventually compete in a machine-run world.

Although, the diffusion of technology-mediated learning or digitalized education in our social fabric cannot be considered a new phenomenon, it was nowhere near as omnipresent as it has become today. The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the implementation of digital education manifold and presently, we are witnessing learners from primary to elementary to tertiary levels of education getting a ‘digital unlock’. This may influence their ability of ‘what to think’ resulting in adopting the new patterns of ‘how to think’ by using and exploring digital realms.

 

Change

But what is really interesting to note is that concerns regarding this ‘digital surge’ had already been raised in the pre-Corona world. Kevin Kelly, a futurist, in his book “The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape our Future”, presents a compelling case regarding the inevitable change leading to a immeasurably different society in consequence to advancement in technology, communications, artificial intelligence and robotics.Moreover, Global Management Consultancy McKinsey & Co has mapped out scenarios predicting up to 30 percent, but more likely about 15 percent, of existing work to be displaced by automation by 2030, which will potentially be unsettling as many as 800 million workers around the globe. On the other hand, the World Economic Forum suggests a “skills revolution” could open up a raft of new opportunities. It is a fact that machines are going to take over some jobs, particularly ones involving huge data that may not be manually processed by humans. Machines are going to augment humans’ performance by not engaging in areas where humans fare better than machines – abilities like creativity, strategic thinking, empathy and compassion among others. Yes! It is the “soft skill” that machines may not learn at all ever!!

The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the implementation of digital education manifold and presently, we are witnessing learners from primary to elementary to tertiary levels of education getting a ‘digital unlock’

This is what Jack Ma had been on about. For him, “Education is a big challenge now. If we don’t change the way we teach, we will be in a big trouble in 30 years from now. Because the ways we teach, the things we teach our kids, are the things from the past 200 years – its knowledge based. We need to be teaching our children values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork, care for others – These are the soft parts. The knowledge will not teach you that. That’s why I think we should teach our kids sports, music, painting, art……. Everything we teach should be different from machines.” 

Skill Seeking

In recent years, the idea of a skill-based economy is seeing a surge in popularity, with educational institutions expected to produce skilled individuals to cope up with the growing needs of rapidly changing trends in all work fields in the present digital age. Soft skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, leadership and management among others are being considered significant in enhancing human professional potential. However, the present education setting is focused on development of hard-skills in particular, with soft-skills considered to develop automatically alongside. This very notion is being challenged as hard-skills are increasingly being managed by artificial intelligence. Based on this fact, corporate and professional domains are looking for soft-skills to enhance human development potential around the globe. And igivne the effects of technology on the world of work, concerns are being raised by academicians, policy makers and futurists worldwide to restructure education and learning strategies to nurture soft-skills in conjunction with hard-skills.

Present education settings are focused on developing hard-skills. This very notion is being challenged as hard-skills are increasingly being managed by artificial intelligence.

This realization comes with a serious concern for the future. Humans, however smart they might be, are not technological beings as they are hedged in by natural parameters. No matter how progressive human knowledge and intelligence become, they would never be able to control the techno-digital scientific phenomenon in the years to come. Humans are either going to be commanded by super-intelligences which are to be generated by Artificial Intelligence or will be giving birth to generations cocooned in Artificial Intelligence coping with the ‘conceptualized comprehensibility’ of values, culture, faith, and may be being sociable too. 

What we know today mainly is the coming up of the world-wide economic recession, bio-warfare, climatic emergency, food shortage and may be a sudden outbreak of barbarism based on racial, ethno-religious or nationalist account. All this cannot be reversed even after the evolution of generations of technology. Besides, artificial Intelligence, cybernetics, technogenesis and nano-tech can add-up to have ‘humanity index’ installed in non-humans. Therefore, it must be admitted, we are advancing toward the time in history where there will be those who tell us that having certain natural desires, to have babies for instance, is quite out of date, and one can have them just as well without humans, through the power of artificial intelligence.

 

Speaking of futuristic possibilities, human civilization seems to be struggling to avoid its march towards a techno-digital global rule. Evolution in techno-digital realms is a threat to the survival of human species if not controlled. Perhaps rational beings may consider threat-assessment to determine sustainable measures for damage-control, which may force them to view Jack Ma’s formula. At Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference in September 2019, Jack Ma said, “If you want to be successful, you should have very high EQ (Emotional Intelligence), a way to get on with people. If you don’t want to lose quickly, you should have good IQ (Intelligence Quotient). But, if you want to be respected, you should have LQ – the quotient of love. The brain will be replaced by machines, but machines can never replace your heart.” Hence, it is all about the heart that matters the most! It is the heart that holds the wisdom! It is the heart that needs to be unlocked.


 

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