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What would education be like in 2050? Gig Economy

The on-demand economy, also known as Gig Economy for its impact on jobs, is already a reality and it is growing fast with deep implication on Education, particularly in the technology areas. Image credit: Crunchbase

So, let’s assume that we can have a digital twin of our “self” that is mirroring our skills and knowledge. This (our) digital twin is a component of the symbiotic autonomous system digital twin. How can it be leveraged in association with the symbiotic digital twin?

Knowledge and skills are tools for doing something (including increasing knowledge and skills, by the way). A smart application can evaluate the context, what needs to be done (like repair an engine) and match the required skills and knowledge to the ones we have, using our digital twin. That would identify the gap, hence what we miss, as well as the best way to fill that gap. Notice that different persons, although having the same gap in skills/knowledge may require different ways to fill that. Education today is mostly standardised, one size fits all. In the future, also thanks to digital twins, it may be customised thus increasing the efficiency of the education process.

Companies like Boeing are already using augmented reality to guide a repair-man to fix an engine in a remote location. They have a sort of digital twin representing the skills and knowledge of that worker and tailor the instruction to him. An expert technician can follow the repair from remote and provide guidance. More and more this expert role may be taken by a software.

In the future, the fixing might be made by a symbiotic autonomous system, like a man donning an exoskeleton and the overall knowledge and skill of this SAS should be considered and … updated as needed. It might, as an example, require an update to the exoskeleton software rather than having the worker’s brain learning how to operate the exoskeleton in that situation.
As mentioned at the beginning of this discussion decision on where to focus in education has already started. The novelty is that more and more we will be sharing knowledge with tools that can reason and extend our mental capability. Classic education has been shy in adopting new tools and taking advantage of them (You need to learn to do multiplication, you cannot just rely on an electronic calculator! You need to do your research on books in a library, you cannot cut and paste from the web! …). Now we are confronted with AI that is starting to best humans’ mind in a growing number of sectors (including medical diagnoses and cure prescription).
The proposal that is studied in the SAS is to see this evolving context as a symbiotic one, it is not either/or (human vs AI) rather AND (human and AI) in a symbiotic growth. Education has to evolve and leverage on this symbiotic opportunity. Using digital twins in education fosters this symbiosis since it becomes possible to operate at the virtual level on homogeneous “characters”.

A smart education program may look beyond the “need to know”, here and now, to foresee what might be needed next, be it the next day or the next week and set up an education plan to make the symbiotic system ready to face new, likely, situations. Again, this can be applied to a single component or to the whole symbiotic system. The point that education has to take into account is that we are more and more operating in symbioses with tools/devices and education shall consider the whole, leveraging on the symbioses.

A smart education actually becomes a component in the symbiotic system and shall be ready to leverage on any education opportunity that comes to pass. This shall take place beyond the here and now and the short term horizon. It will have to become a life-time support for a continuous evolution. This is going to become even more important in the shift towards the “gig-economy” with work seeking for workers (turning the current workers-work relation upside down).

To be found a person needs to be present in the cyberspace and her knowledge and skills need to be honed towards future needs to be competitive in the work market.

In presence of ever more rapid obsolescence of knowledge and skill, education support cannot be focussing only on adding more knowledge and training to acquire more skills in a never ending story where people have to start from scratch over and over again.

Rather, smart education should be able to leverage on acquired knowledge and skills reshaping them to fit new demands. This is what is sometimes referred as “migration of knowledge” to new domains. Organisations like IEEE having a very broad footprint can make this migration possible through education that is also about discovery of new application areas. Efforts shall be put to overcome educations silos as well as knowledge silos.

This is also a crucial point for symbiotic autonomous systems where knowledge and skills of their components shall not be confined in silos but shared and leveraged.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.