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- Preparing for the Future: Careers & Life Transformations Ahead for Our Kids
- Existentialism and Instagram by Andrew Housiaux November 25, 2019
- Opposite Direction: Today’s political and social wrangling deflect and set back serious action in the face of profound Future Disruptions. Time is running out fast!!
- Today’s Skills and Future Work
- The Fourth Industrial Revolution – It’s already started: Your Career/Your Future
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So what is coming down the pipeline for this next generation of young adults? What change, what transformations, what challenges????
A fusing of technologies; technologies embraced by half of the World population, instantaneously accessible and fluidly transferable through nanosecond-speed flows of information and data in a global neural network, all wrapped within an World of environmental change.
The blend of these transformations will have significant secondary effects which the global society will need to manage intelligently and at a much more rapid pace and ability that at anytime in human history.
1. Business will have to change their operational models and value chains will all be challenged, requiring business to adapt or die. 2. A majority of jobs and careers that we have grown up with will morph or disappear entirely, replaced by others yet to be envisioned. 3. Stresses on access to resources and imbalances of equality of opportunity and wealth will become deeper and broader; 4. cyber-security, privacy and asymmetrical conflict will be increasingly prevalent and challenging to manage, 5. requiring governments to become much more agile and capable in dealing with digital threats. 6. And cohesion of human and social identity will increasingly become redefined in novel and unexpected forms, creating ethical dilemmas stretching human capacity to resolve.
All of these transformations and challenges, present a significant redefinition of what our future world will look like. And it will offer profound opportunities for students and the next generations of humans think about what type of world they want to live in and prepare for.
Tennyson reflected on the rapid changes in England during the 2nd Industrial Revolution of the 1800s; especially those of industrial materials manufacturing, mass assembly production, the steam engine and transportation innovation (trains) in his lines: “let the great World spin forever down the ringing grooves of change“. Human experience has always been about change. But what is so terribly different now is the pace and depth of that change. In the Tennyson world, society was radically changed, but in a relatively short time frame, it adapted (albeit with a lot of social pain). But it did catch up and a new social order was created. However, this new Industrial Revolution, the 4th, is changing 5 to 20 times faster than the previous Industrial Revolution. The human institutions, the human social order, the human mu=ind just can’t keep up with the pace of change. And as a result, dislocations, social pain and instability will be profound and so disruptive, that the result will be an continuous and never-ending catchup game, with humans never really able to control, modify or mitigate the distortions that will challenge social order and social systems we have all expected as true and essential for our well-being.
Change is here and will continue to flow at us from all directions with overlapping effects and ramified confluence. Will you, our children and children’s children, be ready to manage and sustain a healthy world for your own and for future generations?
A new form of education, unlike any we have yet created or experienced must become a foundation for future capability. All of societies stakeholders,: families, students, communities, businesses, political institutions, social associations, not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions, all must create a shared vision which will give students the tools and habits of thinking and of the mind to design and adapt for profound change. This will need to be a group effort at an unprecedented scale.
from the Philips Andover Bulletin
Teenagers reflect on technology and being human, with the help of Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Pascal, and Sartre.
You might wonder what a group of American teenagers have in common with existentialist philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre. Three words in particular come to mind: dread, anxiety, and despair. Existentialist thinkers, and many of their philosophical predecessors, saw these moods as central to the human predicament. And these are feelings that many students today can relate to just as strongly.
The existentialists argued for facing, reflecting on, and understanding these feelings to live a free and authentic life. This led me to wonder what I and my high school philosophy students could learn about anxiety and despair if the students decided to confront these existential anxieties head-on by giving up their cell phones and using the time they gained for personal reflection. Further, what might this experience reveal about how best to educate students today?
Phillips Academy is a boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts. With an average class size of 13, the school is able to have students regularly engage in seminar-style discussions. Some of these particulars about small class sizes or a residential environment may not be shared in all school contexts, but there are lessons from our experience to be learned and shared with educators everywhere.
About halfway into a 10-week course on existential philosophy, I could see that students were able to demonstrate a good understanding of the words of the texts we discussed — no mean feat given their complexity. However, I was concerned about a gap between their intellectual knowledge and their understanding of how the ideas we had been studying related to their lives.
Keeping in mind John Dewey’s ideas about students learning not from experience alone but from reflection on experience, I gave my students the option to turn in their cell phone for 72 hours, during which time I would keep them locked in a drawer in my office. Reactions to this proposal varied widely: There was excitement, curiosity, even a sense of panic. One student fled the room when I announced the optional exercise, although she returned sheepishly later that day, handing me her phone. All told, eight out of 14 students participated the first time I did this experiment, and a similar number did so in subsequent years. At the end of the week, students wrote an in-class essay in which they drew upon ideas of the existentialist thinkers we had been studying to analyze their experience of not having their phone for three days. Their reflections showed that they had begun to close the gap between intellectual knowledge and deep experience and, in so doing, had come to a much deeper understanding of these ideas.
Their thoughts also offer insight into three major causes of distress facing adolescents today: first, anxiety around social media; second, difficulty enduring mental and physical discomfort, especially in the absence of stimulation; and third, deep-seated anxiety over what it means to be a free human, responsible for one’s choices.
Anxiety, social media, and “the crowd”: Reflections on Kierkegaard
Our study of Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish philosopher, helped students better understand their simultaneous and contradictory longings for independence and approval from their peers. Warning about the dangers of conformity, Kierkegaard (1859/1975) wrote, “a crowd in its very concept is the untruth, by reason of the fact that it renders the individual completely impenitent and irresponsible” (p. 95). His concerns about the ways individuals can lose themselves in the crowd were echoed in several student essays. One wrote:
On a walk back to my dorm from orchestra rehearsal on Thursday evening, I broke down in tears. I felt intense anxiety over the fact that not only have I wasted so much of my life staring at a screen, but that I don’t have the willpower to break free from the crowd that is phone users.
This magnetic pull of the phone is caused in part by the fact that many of our students access their social world through it. Even though this student frets over the amount of time she has spent on her phone, she does not see herself as able to refrain from using it. Her words point to the power of the crowd — in this case, the social media networks that students participate in. It can be simply too difficult to turn away from this crowd, a social phenomenon exacerbated by Snapchat streaks (which encourage users to log in to Snapchat daily) and embodied in the acronym FOMO: fear of missing out.
A second student wrote about adjusting her self-presentation for those who would be viewing her online posts: “To use words Kierkegaard might, how can I get the largest possible crowd to give their approval?” This student realized that she had been creating a curated — and, ultimately, fabricated — self, editing pictures for the crowd’s approval.
“To use words Kierkegaard might, how can I get the largest possible crowd to give their approval?”
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These two examples point to deeper challenges. The student leaving orchestra rehearsal framed her struggles as a lack of volition: “I don’t have the willpower to break free.” Her analysis is as poignant as it is incomplete. She is using a device and apps that have been designed to be addictive and take advantage of hard-wired human needs for pleasure and social approval. Tristan Harris, a former product manager at Google and the founder of the Center for Humane Technology, argues that this technology is “not designed to help us. It’s designed to keep us hooked” (Vox Media, 2018). After all, the more users interact with certain apps, the more data their developers will have to sell to advertisers. Harris compares the refresh feature in several popular apps to the playing of a slot machine, an experience designed to give the illusion of control to the user. Players keep pulling the lever — or refreshing the screen — in hopes of a reward. And, when the reward comes in the form of “likes” on their posts, students alter their self-presentation to increase their chances of getting more rewards. Students, with their still-developing brains and deeply felt desire for approval, are highly vulnerable to the techniques social media designers use to keep them online.
Embodied physical and mental anguish: Pascal and boredom
In the absence of their phones, the students had to confront boredom and the accompanying persistent discomfort. They began to appreciate in a deeper way the words of the 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal (1670/1995), who asserted that “the sole cause of [humanity’s] unhappiness is that [we] do not know how to stay quietly in [our] room” (p. 37). Reflecting on this plight, one student wrote, “I know my phone is not healthy for me, but nonetheless I am almost always scrolling. It is an escape from the acute consciousness that humanity suffers from.” These words point to a deep tension in students’ use of their cell phones: They know intellectually that the way they use their phone is not good for them, but their experience is that the phone provides a temporary (albeit inadequate) refuge in moments of distress. Later in her essay, this student said that her phone “allows me to choose when to think and when I don’t. It’s a simple off switch that I can fit in my hand.” These reflections echo the findings of a group of scientists who found that people preferred electric shocks to the experience of sitting alone in a room (Wilson et al., 2014). Scrolling on the cell phone can provide a temporary respite from discomfort, but procrastination and time on social media often exacerbate their distress in the long term.
Another student described his phone simply as a “personal anxiety coping mechanism.” Without this security blanket, students were often adrift; they had not learned to be by themselves or understand their inner lives well. Being without a phone could be overwhelming, as it was for the student who broke down in tears upon leaving her orchestra rehearsal. For another student, “what began as a pleasant freedom from a sense of obligation to submerge myself in social media quickly turned into profound loneliness, the sensation pulling me into deep thought like the undertow of a wave.” These strong emotions had been kept at bay when students had something to distract themselves with, but they emerged with force once that stimulation was absent.
Follow-up conversations with these students revealed them to be more resilient than their initial raw reflections might have suggested. But this experience nonetheless revealed to students a baseline level of distress and anxiety that they had previously been able to suppress via technological distractions. It also helped to illuminate the deeper meaning of words like dread and despair that they had used more casually in class discussions earlier in the term.
Not all experiences of abandoning digital distraction were negative. Several students so enjoyed the freedom and peace of mind that came from this new way of being in the world that they left their phones in my office past the initial three days. Two students’ phones stayed in my office for more than a month. Another student wrote that whereas he previously would use his phone to “bore my mind into numbness until the fear subsides,” by the end of the three days he had begun reading for fun and had begun to write a short story. This student reported that “by isolating myself from my phone, I began to do things much more authentically than I do on a daily basis.”
The anxiety of freedom: Sartre and Dostoyevsky
The students overwhelmingly saw time on their phones as a flight from freedom, giving them a new understanding of Sartre’s (1946/2007) assertion that “[we] are condemned to be free” (p. 29). For some, this freedom was simply too much to bear. The student whose freedom from his phone led him to reading and writing a short story also began to question some of the academic work he was being asked to do, with the result that he stopped doing homework entirely in two classes to focus on these more creative pursuits. Because of this, he ultimately decided that “acting freely was not conducive toward success. . . . I got yelled at in both my physics and math classes.”
Another student began to understand how the freedom she thought she had was an illusion: “I use my phone as a tool of self-limitation, in which I believe that I am in control. . . . In reality, am I in control? Or am I losing part of what it means to be human?” In our discussion of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, several students pointed to the Grand Inquisitor’s assertion that there exists a “universal and everlasting anguish of man as an individual being, and the whole of mankind together, namely: ‘before whom shall I bow down?’ ” (Dostoyevsky, 1880/2002, p. 254). These students saw that while their phones offered the veneer of choice, they were in fact largely enchained by technology and their emotional responses to it.
At the conclusion of her essay, the student who fretted about her loss of control reflected on her fraught relationship with her phone: “I cannot blame myself for attempting to distance myself from the endless dread, I must keep my obsessions with distraction in check, as to not lose my identity as a free human being.” What does it mean to be a free human being? It is hard to imagine a more central question in the study of philosophy and, even more important, in the lives of our students.
What this means for educators
To anyone who has worked with adolescents over the past decade, the centrality of cell phones and social media in these students’ lives is no surprise. But what is new is how well these students are able to talk about their own lives and choices. One student who ended up leaving his phone with me for three weeks observed that “it is my conditioned outlook on life, and my fear of it, that call for real attention.” Words like this would make the existentialists proud because they show a student choosing to turn toward their fear, rather than away from it. No matter their experience, these students were able to offer such compelling reflections precisely because they were in dialogue with powerful thinkers. By stepping away from their cell phones, paying close attention to their inner lives and moods, and then bringing those experiences into dialogue with central texts in philosophy and literature, they were able to better understand themselves and the motivations and impulses behind their use of technology.
This experiment shows clearly that students are interested in reflecting on and understanding their whole lives, on and offline. As educators, our task is to invite this part of their lives into the classroom, connecting it to central themes and questions in the humanities, giving students the language and ideas to articulate how they can best lead freely chosen and authentic lives.
Dostoyevsky, F. (2002). The Brothers Karamazov (R. Pevear and L. Volokhonsky, trans.). New York, NY: FSG. (Original work published 1880)
Kierkegaard, S. (1975). That individual. In W. Kaufmann (Ed.), Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre (pp. 94-101). New York, NY: Penguin. (Original work published 1859)
Pascal, B. (1995). Pensées (A. Krailsheimer, trans.). New York, NY: Penguin. (Original work published 1670)
Sartre, J. (2007). Existentialism is a humanism (C. Macomber, trans.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. (Original work published 1946)
Vox media. (2018, February 23). It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUMa0QkPzns
Wilson, T.D., Reinhard, D.A., Westgate, E.C., Gilbert, D.T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C. . . . Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345 (6192), 75-77.
Opposite Direction: Today’s political and social wrangling deflect and set back serious action in the face of profound Future Disruptions. Time is running out fast!!
All of the political mayhem the USA and around the World is sucking the energy out of focussing on the enormous issues and disruptions that humans need to prepare for NOW; occurring in the present and increasingly in the future.
Educating ourselves and our children and their children to think and behave differently, creatively, with thoughtfulness and deep critical analysis about how to manage the: technology innovations; the ethical and destructive implications of continuing to ignore the coming disruptions in society; the threat to social and nation-state and global cohesion and human well-being – is absolutely pathetic and so human-like (we are flawed beings).
Not realizing that the whole World will be impacted is the Ostrich Effect. “It might happen to others but not to me and my family!” Tribalism is our undoing. Thinking like a victim is no protection. Thinking we are immune because of high status or exceptionalism is no safe haven.
Rich, poor, white sheltered suburban, white entrepreneurial, non-white, non-American… all can’t nor will anyone be able to escape this deluge of change.
What we can do is start to behave with intelligence knowing that we are all in the same boat. Profound Technological Innovation changes the workforce dynamic, the way we as a local, regional, national and global society will relate and value ourselves; as collaborators pulling together or as shredders of the fabric of societal networks which connect, stabilize and secure all realms of human experience.
Global Climate Change impacts everyone, the resulting conflicts – for land, resources, safety – all of us, everyone, everywhere, will feel the hard reality of significant disruptive changes. There will no longer a “getting back to the good old days” or “making American Great Again”.
We squandered those days and ignored realities right before our eyes. And our children and grandchildren and their children will pay for our self-absorbed, self-important thoughtlessness.
The high minded, righteousness of the Woodstock Nation became bankrupt and slewed around through complacency and the allure of socio/economic status and self-importance.
The USA is NOT an ISLAND. It is part of a whole interconnected global system, ecologically and digitally interwoven. We all rise or fall together.
AND Building the Bunker won’t save anyone. It just prolongs the inevitable.
So we all need to pull ourselves together, and know the Future is as important to our families, our grandchildren and their children and future society – as getting through the present, as squabbling and yowling, destructive adolescents.
Fools we are.
Fools will we always be??
This piece evolved out of an accumulation of ideas and insights from a range of sources about the skills that future workers should have to be successful in the next generation or two.* It also is a call for radical academic curricular changes both in content, focus and teaching style. In all cases, experience in the STEAM curriculum is essential. However, STEAM skills need to be woven into a liberal arts “habits of thinking” to assure the best decision-making, both short term and equally as critical, longterm effects. The capacity to think deeply and reflectively as to the broader ramifications of actions across the human and technology spectrum, beyond short-term profits, financial viability or power acquisition, should be elemental for any decision. The changes ahead will have profound ramifications and how humans manage them will have significant effects on the human society.
*World Economic Forum 2017 – 4th Industrial Revolution; Risks Report 2018, Internet of Things 2018, Re-Skilling Revolution 2018
*McKinsey Report September 2017 – Getting Ready For the Future of Work
*University of Oxford – The Oxford Martin on Technology and Employment
*Kevin Kelly –The Inevitable
*McAfee and Brynjolfsson – Machine, Platform, Crowd….
*Steven Pinker – Enlightenment Now:….
*WSJ, NYT, Forbes Reports
The Future World and Change
Economic value creation is and will be increasingly based on the use of ever higher levels of specialized skills and knowledge, (as opposed production of the traditional value-based tangible products – inherent in the capitalist system of the past 2 centuries) creating unprecedented new opportunities for some individuals while threatening to leave others with diminished opportunities, affecting a significant share of the workforce. Workers will have to adapt quickly, rushing to acquire a broad set of new skills that will help them survive a fast-changing job market; these include problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, as well as developing a habit of lifelong learning and new habits of thinking.
In the short-term, people already in the workplace will be forced to adapt and re-skill. While students K-16 (the “workers of the future”) will need to be “schooled” in very new ways.
It is these individuals, present and future, who will succeed in the economy of the future. They will have to develop the capacity to blend the inherently human and non-machine skills, those defined as “social intelligence”, to work in complement with machine intelligence. Machines are more comprehensive and accurate in data sourcing “intelligence” (learning/ artificial machines) or repetitive motion and predictable action (robotics), driven by mechanical or algorithmic technologies than humans. They are exponentially more rapid and efficient producing far better results than humans in design, production quality at a notable lower cost to the producer and ultimately the consumer. Businesses will acquire these technologies and adapt new business models to maintain competitiveness. And so more people without these essential skills will be forced out of the traditional workforce resulting in significant social, economic and emotional disruption. That humans will invariably be working alongside machines, whether in an artificial augmentation or augmented intelligence platform, is inevitable.
This inevitability and the resulting affects on human cultures is critically important to acknowledge, now. It raises a whole new sense and set of imperatives in how humans manage, adjust and optimize their future or potentially that humans will become secondary drivers in their place on Earth. It means that new skills compatible with this blending of human and machine is going to be required to make the most of what the machines can do for the humans. And as a result how human development evolves.
Action now is imperative.
(The first paragraph is an extract from the World Economic Forum 2018)
The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second and third industrial revolutions. These advances are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril. The speed, breadth and depth of this revolution is forcing us to rethink how countries develop, how organisations create value and even what it means to be human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about more than just technology-driven change; it is an opportunity for leaders, policy-makers, academics and people from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centred future. The real opportunity is to look beyond technology, and find ways to give the greatest number of people the ability to positively impact their families, organisations and communities.
This will require design of new school curriculum K-16 to imbue students with the essential skills; foundational, complex, and character development – most of which are not presently incorporated into the standard academic curriculum. These uptake of these skills is predicated on acquisition of fact-based information, blended with long-term project development skills and applications, engaging emotional intelligence skills and developing character traits that are adapted to the new corporate and social expectations essential for managing the fluid and rapidly changing demands of future careers and lifestyle. (Kinsey 2017, WEF 2018)
A national vision of what that new educational model needs become has to occur as rapidly as possible. (New Zealand has already started developing a consensus of need and a national vision for implementation) The ability of the next 2 generations to manage the tidal wave of forces occurring presently and expected in the next several decades (rapid technology implementation , globalization, civil war, natural and man-made disasters, massive population migrations, social and political discord, and economic disruption and inequality of wealth distribution), and the cohesion of stable societies into the future, are dependent on framing this vision. Today’s leaders are obligated to cohere and collaborate on defining and implementing a dynamic and appropriate change in the educational course of study sequenced and scaffolded from kindergarten through graduation from college, to give students time to practice these essential skills so they are embedding in their behaviors and practice to support their future career, life endeavors and societies continuing progression toward maintaining and sustaining liberal (as in liberty), democratic institutions.
Future jobs are likely to pair computer intelligence with creative skills. Things have changed in the essential skills needed by future employers and society. The dilemma for educators is now that routine cognitive skills – skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test (the skills which have been traditionally taught for 19th and 20th Century careers)– are also exactly the kind of skills that are easiest to digitise, automate and outsource. * Andreas Schlecher OECD/PISA Programme
Retooling the historical educational curriculum will be an uphill battle. Society resists change but, ironically, readily adopts technological innovation. The lag between development and adoption of new and very different skills sets and the timely necessity of society to become trained and available as a relevant new workforce, will strain educational systems, and leave much of the population ill-equipped to qualify for newly evolving careers. New academic models, retooling curriculum, and a reassessment of the whole idea of what being educated means, will strain the capacity of educators and academic institutions, breaking some and driving others to experiment. And out of this disruption will eventually evolve new curricular models designed to constantly adapt to keep up with the exponential changes driven by technologies and societies metamorphosis.
The near future will see a wrenching, dynamic debate and significant disruption in the form and substance of “education”. It will take a broad social vision and then the shared sense of common purpose to engender the energy and political will to create this change. To resist this change, to not recognize the imperative to move thoughtfully but also quickly, threatens the balance and stability of the economic, social and political order of America and its foundational democratic vision and its leadership in the World.
Sorry, I should have left you with some tasters of the sort of work that might be out there in the future. Actually, a few already exist and will continue to exist even as many existing today will disappear. Here are only a few:
Memory Augmentation Therapists
Artificial Intelligence Programmer
Makeshift Structure Engineer
Robocar Traffic Controller
Robotic Earthworm Drivers
Mining Resource Specialist
Carbon Capture Technician
Computer Forensics Analyst
Integrated Digital Media Specialist
Augmented Reality Journey Builder
Cyber City Analyst
Personal Data Broker
There are 100’s of possible new careers that coming change will create, many of which will then fade as others rapidly, are newly created to meet demand. Developing new skills and lifelong learning will be inevitable for anyone who wants to continue to work and have a viable and productive life. Expect to have 20 or more careers or modifications of careers in your next 20-50 years of work. Change and Gig are the by-words.