Unintended Consequences, Automation, Open Resources

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Learning, Critical Thinking

Why is it important that people learn how to think critically? Why is it more important now than even 10 years ago? Is is because the way we communicate and share information has completely changed?

At The Future Learning Project we take a critical approach to examining what the future of learning might look like, and what factors are influencing how and why schools and education systems need to evolve. This week's focus is:

1. A look at unintended consequences, and why we need to teach students to recognise bias and understand how to think.

2. Two optimistic takes on how automation and AI will disrupt work - to our benefit.

3. We look at one example of an open, free online shared resource space, and what these resources might mean for learning.

We start via Farnam Street with a discussion about unintended consequences. Providing several examples of well-intended human actions resulting in disastrous outcomes (animal releases, banning substances, cobra breeding), the article argues that "Most unintended consequences are just unanticipated consequences. And in the world of consequences intentions often don't matter."

Unanticipated consequences arise from a failure to think systemically, ignorance about how the world works, failure to change thinking in light of new information and failure to consider long-term consequences. Humans must think critically to avoid unintended consequences. They need to recognise biases, be open to new information and ideas, invite discussion, be curious, and understand where we are competent and where we are not.

These are skills that need to be practiced, and we argue that the benefits of this will be seen not only in lives and careers, but in schools, communities and societies.

Do our children practice these skills in their learning at school? Do they have the opportunity to engage critically with themselves and the world around them? If so, what does it look like?

The first optimistic look at automation and loss of jobs to AI via Futurism argues that while job loss is inevitable, it needn't necessarily be a bad thing. Jolene Creighton envisages a world in which AI is woven into our very existence, and the role of education has changed from learning skills in order to work to a life-long learning according to ever-changing job requirements.

So who's responsible? Will companies absorb the cost of learning? Governments? Workers? Will they form learning partnerships? Will industries with skill shortages be subsidised? Will good jobs exist? Will wages be high enough?

Are our schools having these conversations with students? Are case studies of changes within local industries being conducted by students? Are they interviewing business owners, leaders and politicians?

The work to address the issue of education and learning within the context of automation and disruption of work has barely begun. We need to rapidly transform how we learn and develop human potential, and the work must start now.

Our second optimistic article is also via Futurism, shared from the World Government Summit in Dubai. While many worry about the disruptive negative effects of AI and automation on people's jobs, Sebastian Thurn argues that we may instead become superhuman workers, with AI enhancing our abilities. AI will be left to tackle the routine cognitive tasks, while humans focus on their unique ability to create and invent.

The timeline for realising this transition is mixed, but most are agreed that by the year 2030 AI will be well advanced and have had a major impact on many industries. Today's ten year olds will be 22 years old in 2030 - just entering the workforce (if it still exists).

Do our education systems reflect how transformationally different the world of work is likely to be? Will traditional jobs even exist? What skills will they need? How can we help them be better prepared?

Resources for high quality learning are increasingly becoming accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Via The Hechinger Report, we have had a good look at Learning Commons this week. Still in beta, Learning Commons is an open, free, shared online space where users can access and use resources developed with a focus on blended and personalised learning. The concept is sound, and there is a credible list of partner organisations and a wide range of course and resources available. The purpose of Learning Commons is to accelerate teacher professional development within the context of future-focused learning.

Looking through the resources, although highly learner-centred many are very disciplinary with an emphasis on moving teachers away from a 'one size fits all' approach to teaching and learning. These are important first steps, and we will keep in touch with the resources that are being added over the coming months.

Learning Commons is a good example of how access to information and learning is trending in the online space - open source and free, with credibility established through partner organisations and vetting of resources.

One challenge for teachers who access these resources is having their learning recognised or acknowledged through a credits-based system or online professional portfolio, possibly in a blockchain ledger. The question then becomes whether a credential is necessary, and if so how resource quality is evaluated - likes and views will not be enough.

Thank you for joining us this week - please don't forget to comment on our articles and posts - we want to share ideas, critical thought and constructive feedback.


#Criticalthinking #Automation #AI #Resources