Home / Blog / Education: disruptions ahead? – II

Education: disruptions ahead? – II

Digital twins found their first application in manufacturing. Now they are rapidly extending to more areas, including health care where the Digital Twin of a person can mirror the physiological characteristics of that person. It will likely extend in the future to include its genome, metabolome,… In this post I am saying that a person’s digital twin will mirror her skills and knowledge and will be used in personalised education. Image credit: NetworkWorld
  • Basic education and just in time education

The need to acquire a basic education, i.e. the capability to learn –including learning to communicate verbally and of reading  /written communications may fade away, possibly not in this timeframe but in the long run/, the capability to understand logical structures and math, the capability to operate and interact effectively in a community, will remain basically unchanged although the tools to achieve this basic knowledge may change adapting and leveraging the new environment (AR/VR will likely dominate learning by the middle of this century).

This basic education will probably need some refresh once the working life will exceed 40 years, with several researchers pointing to the possibility of having a few break periods to dedicate to basic education throughout the professional life, e.g. after 15/20 years of working activity have a 1-2 years break to go back to school (so to say, even if the school might be quite different from today).

An aspect that will become crucial in the coming decade is the awareness of “personal knowledge gap”.  This can be related both to a gap in basic education (like the need to acquire new, more effective tools to access knowledge and deal with it) and to the understanding of what specific knowledge is needed for a task at hand.

Digital twins will become essential to manage the knowledge gap. Every person will have a knowledge digital twin that on the one hand will mirror the knowledge of that person (the physical twin) and on the other hand will find out gaps in basic education (by monitoring the evolution of basic education and comparing to the one it has) and in the task at hand (by looking at what would be the best knowledge required to carry out the task and comparing it to the actual knowledge available to the real twin).

This basic education (possibly repeated during one’s lifetime) will need to be complemented by a just-in-time education that for most part will be based on the “need to know”. Hence, it will be very focused and very timely.

A growing portion of this “need to know” will be related to learn how to access knowledge and make it operational, not to acquire knowledge. Knowledge itself might reside in other people or, ever more frequently, in machines (in the cyberspace).

We will have to move from today’s paradigm of acquiring knowledge (made easier by tools that connect us to the knowledge in the cyberspace, rather than using books as we did in the past) to a paradigm where accessing knowledge will be important to have the owner of the knowledge doing what is needed, rather than learning that knowledge to be the one doing what is needed. By doing so, we could enhance our knowledge in ways not accessible and available in the past.

Projects will be carried out by applying distributed knowledge in a much more effective way than what is happening today where knowledge transfer is the stumbling block.

Notice the difference between today’s “continuous education” from tomorrow’s just in time education.
Continuous education as it is conceived today is more in line with continuous basic education although we are starting to see an approach to continuous education that is tailored to both the individual knowledge and to the education requirements to execute a specific task. We are starting to see continuous education courses created dynamically out of a vast module portfolio, although this is just a tiny step if we look at what will be the needed in 20 years time.

An additional –but critical aspect- is that outside knowledge is no longer a repository (a book, a data base). What we see is that knowledge is more and more operational, exactly as it is human knowledge. Our brain is not a repository of knowledge. Whenever we ask a person for some of her knowledge, including when we ask ourselves, we don’t get a book, what we get is operational knowledge adapted to the specific circumstance. This is starting to happen to the outside knowledge when it is accessed through a smart agent (making use of artificial intelligence). This is a major shift, it is the first time in the human kind history that we can tap onto operational knowledge.

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 New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. 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.