Building the Ability to Work Alongside Machines: 10 Lessons from Peter Schwartz

Future of Learning, Learning, Learning Design

We often take for granted that we’re carrying supercomputers around in our pockets and that you can run your life, learning and business from your phone. That all happened in the last ten years.

At a recent GSV Summit, Salesforce SVP and author of The Art of The Long View Peter Schwartz (@peterschwartz2) spoke about Evolution of Technology, Jobs and Education. Schwartz concludes, “It’s wishful thinking to believe that human intelligence adds value in every application, but the ability to work alongside machines will be an increasingly essential and widespread skill set.”


Following are 10 takeaways from Schwartz on working with smart machines:

1. Connected World. Your mobile device is a powerful hub of seamless, synced and simple tools. By 2020, 7 billion people and 75 billion devices will be connected. It’s the combined effect of cheaper devices, computing and storage that is accelerating the pace of change.

2. Evolving User Interface (UI). For twenty years we’ve used a screen and mouse to navigate our computing experience. Schwartz sees an emerging omni-channel experience with multiple touchpoints including voice, movement, touch (haptic) and brain control. With a proliferation of sensors in all aspect of life, a personal UI will move seamlessly from home, car and workplace.

3. Personal Assistants. In the foreground of the new seamless UI will be smart virtual assistants. A personal assistant will soon wake you and accompany you throughout the day. It will know and adjust your schedule, move from home to a self-driving car (a mobile workspace). After work, it will arrange your workout with a holographic friend and a shared VR study session with a mentor. (See The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly for details.)

4. Intimate Computing. We’re moving from personal computing to intimate computing (you know it and it knows you). Everyone will soon have a personal assistant (#3) that will prioritize and optimize, prompt as well as respond, span personal and professional, and continuously learn. A current problem is that platform ecosystems (Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft) are not interoperable–eventually they’ll talk to each other.

5. Competency. Life with smart machines will yield learning experiences–for you and your able sidekick. In addition to (and occasionally instead of) degrees, micro-credentials are emerging as a new means of competency signaling.

Schwartz used an Institute of the Future video that explained a possible use of a blockchain public ledger to build shareable learner profiles.

6. Intelligence as a service. Intimate computing (#4) requires advances in machine intelligence. Efforts to move from hindsight to insight to foresight has fueled a rush of AI startups and quick acquisitions by platforms attempting

Salesforce has been buying a startup a month–all rolled up into intelligence as a service unveiled last month called Einstein.

7. Human-Machine Symbiosis. Augmented intelligence is the driver of the next economy. Value contributions will be made by shaping algorithms and leveraging algorithms (see Cause + Code)

A recent Stanford prediction about Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 identifies eight domains where AI is already having or is projected to have the greatest impacts–each with a high level of human-machine symbiosis–transportation, healthcare, education, low-resource communities, public safety and security, employment and workplace, home/service robots and entertainment.

8. Platform Economy. We’re living through a platform revolution where the five biggest companies run platforms. Schwartz sees platforms enabling networks that augment rather than replace workers and create amazing user experiences.

Next economy companies will technology to redesign the way services ought to work and to transform the structure of their industry. Innovators will use an excess capacity of sensors, expertise, vehicles, labor, computing power to create new services in a frictionless re-aggregated crowd economy.

9. Inventing New Jobs. Schwartz believes that this fifth wave of automation, like the prior waves, will create rather than destroy jobs. Labor-saving technological change displaces certain job tasks, while over the long run generating new products and services that raise incomes.

New artisans will combine technology and interpersonal tasks to offer uniquely human services. Tasks that cannot be substituted by automation are generally complemented by it, raising the value of the tasks that human workers uniquely supply. However, the transition won’t be smooth. Automation will affect almost all jobs, transforming entire business processes and redefining roles.

10. Get Good at Stuff Machines Don’t Do. The bottom line is that we need to help young people develop uniquely human skills–abstract, creative, nonroutine tasks. It suggests promoting deeper learning experiences to prepare young people to do what AI doesn’t do well: give a hug, solve a mystery, tell a story (NPR); solve problems and build relationships (Brookings); and focus on adding value in novel situations (Anthony Goldbloom on TED).

We’re experiencing what Schwartz describes as a “very broad, multifaceted revolution in machine intelligence.” If we continue to #AskAboutAI and discuss it’s use and deployment, it will not be for the few–it will become widely available for everyone.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners and Bloomboard. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.

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