Education in an Automated Future: Part 1
Back in 2011, Marc Andreesen (founder of Netscape and Venture Capitalist) wrote an essay titled “Why Software is Eating the World.” Andreesen’s main point was that many services we consume are wholly based on software. Thus you have Expedia and Priceline eating up travel agents, or Uber eating up taxi services, or advance optical algorithms capable of detecting cancers eating up radiologist positions.
To some extent, Andreesen was channeling the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter who wrote this about capitalism: “[it] revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
Advances in technology. Increasing automation in all sectors of society. And the creative destruction of capitalism.
What does this mean for K-12 Education?
This series of posts derives from a presentation I gave with Keith Millard, the superintendent of Batavia Local Schools. Delivered during the 2019 Ohio School Board Conference, our presentation was very well received and generated much conversation with a packed audience. Educators and board members are always thinking about the future and how best to serve children. While I’m not sure we had many answers to the questions, we made solid headways in framing the discussion. Considering the future for our children is always important.
What is Automation and Where is it Taking Us?
Automation is “the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or system operate automatically.” This can increase productivity (i.e. – more done with less).
But automation can also remove humans from the process or system. Whether this is a good outcome or not depends on the human!
Are we moving towards an automated future? One where more and more machines and processes run automatically without, necessarily, lots of human inputs? Consider the following image:
This is a bit of a jokey way of demonstrating how automated the method of obtaining food has become in 2019!
A recent Brookings Report spends a good deal of time investigating how automation and artificial intelligence affects people and places. Broken down by job categories, the report highlights the probability of a particular profession being automated. Nearly all professions will be affected in some way.
What does this mean for the future of work?
The short answer is we don’t know. But we like to bucket the future into three different possibilities that seem to be most often cited.
- Bucket 1: No more jobs. All – or nearly all – jobs will be replaced by code or by robots.
- Bucket 2: Old jobs go away. But that’s okay because new jobs will be here to replace the old jobs.
- Bucket 3: Something in-between
We do know that the future will be different when it comes to work. And if that’s the case, what does that mean for K-12 education?
I’ll cover that in Part 2 of this series.