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Education: disruptions ahead? – III

Shared knowledge, here represented in a cartoon, is already reality in many working teams, each of the team component having specific skills and knowledge. In the future some of these components may be a machine (including a soft machine, AI based). Image credit: ecampus
  • Symbiotic shared education

The shift from owning knowledge to owing the capability to access knowledge and engage the knowledge  owner to leverage on that for the task at hand is taking us into the era of symbiotic shared education.

Assuming that it will be possible to engage the required knowledge, the education protocol will aim at increasing knowledge where it is most effective, and in most cases that will mean to educate machines rather than humans. This might seem unbelievable today but we already have working examples of machine learning and machine learning in an autonomous way. Their learning is faster than the one of any human being, and can be continuously updated, while being retained as machines never forget.

Notice that this shift has started in the last century with the pocket calculator. How many people would know today how to find the square root of a number? From that very tiny beginning we have now machines that can learn to identify a face (used by many police department all over the world), machines that can estimate the evolution of the stock market and take selling/buying decisions, machines that can learn the best path to clean a house.

The examples are many and growing fast. Robots have shifted to be pure executors in the assembly line to be co-workers, software is learning, continuously, what is the mood and preference of people and create music that meet the fancy of the moment.

In healthcare we are on the thresholds of a momentous change with software associating specific genes to diseases and to the most effective cure, with protocols that are continuously monitored and finely tuned.

In spite of all this progress we have just started and we are entering into a new education paradigm.

The digital twins, previously mentioned, go  beyond assessing education gap. They can guide in the delivery of education and more than that they are becoming artificial knowledge carriers.

A person gaining experience (and knowledge) will implicitly grow her digital twin experience and knowledge. Differently from a person that is limited to one instance (a person can be only in one place –also from remote- and do one task at a time) a digital twin can be instantiated an unlimited number of times (and we are starting to see digital twins consultants serving several clients at the same time).
More than that. A digital twin never gets sick, never takes vacation and may never die or cease to exist.

The ownership of a digital twin is becoming a matter of discussion both under the legal and the ethical point of view.

The science fiction idea of connecting a brain to a machine to extract its knowledge and connecting another brain to that machine to download knowledge on the brain is becoming, sort of, feasible through the concept of digital twin. In this case, however, there is no longer the need to download the knowledge on a physical person since the knowledge in the digital twin -virtual knowledge agent- can be used directly, with no need of transferring it to a physical person. Cartoon credit: StarterSquad

A company claim rights, today, to the knowledge a person is acquiring on the job (no-disclosure agreements, no-competition pacts …). It might be expected they will claim rights on the digital twin as well. Would those companies retain the rights as the employee moves to another company? Would the digital twin be transferred to the other company (possibly enforcing a blockchain onto knowledge usage)?

What kind of accountability will reside with the digital twin, with the real twin and with the user of the digital twin?

A company exists thanks to its competitive implicit knowledge. This can be derived from the creation of a symbiotic digital twin (that at certain stages can embed real win instances). Digital twins can indeed consist of the aggregation of several digital twins.

A symbiotic autonomous system has a knowledge, and skill, that is the emergence of the individual components, through their mutual interactions. Educations in 2050 will need to address the symbiotic autonomous system as a whole and decide where, when and how to educate the individual components. It is a whole new world that we are just starting to visualize.

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.