Yarno's crystal ball: The future of learning and AI

Courtney Dutton, 5 min read

Yarno's crystal ball: The future of learning and AI

Today we take yet another step away from the quill and ink, the steam powered engine, the corset and whatever other outdated invention you can think of, and step into the big known unknown: the future.

And what is the number one scary and exciting invention coming for us? AI. Artificial Intelligence. Only, it’s not just coming for us. It’s here. Your phone (Siri), your car (Uber) even the plane you took to Venice last summer to see it before it sinks (autopilot). They’ve all got it. AI is everywhere; the doors are locked, the exits sealed. There is no escape. And yet...

This is just the beginning

Electronic computers were first developed in the 1950s. Great big clunky things as big as buildings that took an hour to add up 2+5. Then they released the internet to the public in 1991 and lolcats, hyperlinks and chat rooms (a/s/l?) were released to the world. The iPhone came around in 2007. Now the whole world is dedicated to and predicated on these 5-inch things that sit in your pocket and crack when dropped from a heigh of 0.2 metres. In just 67 years the world has changed.

Now think about this - the wheel has been around since about 3,500BC. That's a lot of years. And we all still depend on the wheel for everything. Cars. Planes. Trains. Even the shoddy ones on the bottom of supermarket trolleys that stop and start and make you push the trolly on an awkward 47 degree angle. Even those we can’t live without.

It’s the same with the internet - it’s already revolutionised our world so much and this is only the beginning of its history.* When the wheel was invented suddenly you could get from A to B much quicker, travel greater distances. Now that the iPhone is around there’s no reason to get from A to B because instead you can get someone on a bike with a big square backpack to bring you your McChicken and 12 piece McNugget meal right to you. Technology is amazing.

What I’m trying to say is: this is only the beginning.

The future

You might get frustrated at Siri now when she calls Mona when you told her to call Ramona, but she's only just getting started. If she can tell you that the bus is going to be 7 minutes late now, imagine what she’ll be able to do in 5, 10 and 50 years. Just as the 3,500BC man who created the wheel so he could carry more rocks back to his cave couldn’t imagine those same wheels being strapped to an airplane and blasted off on the Sydney to Bali red-eye, we can’t even come close to imagining all the wonderful and terrible things AI has in store for us.

AI and continuous learning

AI is very scary! It’s robots that can think! If they think too much they’ll realise that we’ve created them to do all the jobs we don’t want to do, grow resentful, and overthrow us in all the gruesome, horrible ways they can think of with their smart robot brains! That’s the worst-case scenario that Hollywood sells us in every second Will Smith movie. The reality (at least, the reality for now) is that AI can automate a lot of jobs traditionally performed by humans, and therefore they’re going to replace a lot of human jobs. Figures vary, but on average it’s expected that AI will replace 75 million jobs by 2022.

This isn’t doomsday, however, but an opportunity. AI is also expected to create 133 million new roles. It’s not that the robots are taking our jobs, but that they’re changing the nature of them. Goodbye manual labor, hello skilled professionals. AI doesn’t mean you can’t work, it means you have to work smarter. Adapt. Up-skill. The world is changing and we have to change with it. It’s not enough to go to school and then maybe university and then shut your brain off for 40+ years. This is the era of continuous learning. You want to beat the robots? Learn. Learn all the new skills that AI requires: each iteration of technology is a new iteration to master. New programs, new ways to perform the same functions faster and more skilfully.

Then there’s the skills that the robots can’t ever gain - people skills.** Emotional intelligence, charisma, understanding that someone being “gluten free” and having a gluten intolerance are two separate states of being. These skills are what we traditionally view as innate rather than learned, however, as we’ve previously written, “soft skills” not only canbe trained, but need to be. Separating yourself from the crowd is a tough job. And the 56 billion robots now populating that crowd only makes it tougher. The only thing you’ve got that a robot doesn’t is the ability to employ soft skills effectively. If you want to work in the future, you need to keep your soft skills, your people skills, your anything-a-robot-can’t-do skills up to scratch. That's why at Yarno, we're not only trying to up-skill others, but ourselves. For example, we recently participated in a non-violent communication workshop.Robots, while great mathematicians, aren't the best communicators. So we decided to assert out dominance over them by being fantastic at something they're not even mediocre at.

AI and the nature of learning

AI doesn’t just mean that we need to learn more, however, it also offers opportunities for the way we learn. For example, AI means that learning can become more personal, even tailor made. Data captured from your learning history can be used to tailor your future learning to the individual way you learn best. For example, say you complete a quiz, obviously there will be areas of that quiz in which you perform better than others. AI means that upon retesting, you will be represented only with those topics that you performed worse in, so then you get more opportunity to practice those areas, and from there up-skill in the bits you’re lagging in.

A slightly more advanced version of this may be that the technology notices that you perform best when you learn the content from a video, rather than from reading. Or that you perform better when you train in the morning, rather than the evening. AI will be able to then tailor the form and structure of your learning automatically, without the need of human intervention, so that each person is given a tailor-made learning course designed just for them and the way that they learn best. Learning is personal, we all know it (even if schools don’t), AI can help us get to the truly individual learning experience. And these are just two extremely minor examples of the way AI will impact the way we learn. Remember what I was saying with the wheel example - we can’t even come close to comprehending the million myriad ways AI is going to affect and change us.

So what does the future hold? Opportunity. More than anything else. But the only way to take it is to keep up, to up-skill. So come on then, time to get going. No time like the present.

*I understand that the beginning of AI and the beginning of the internet are two distinct events and still remain two separate technologies. However, they are inextricably connected. AI technology relies heavily on the internet: Siri can’t tell you what’s the best pizza place within a 0.2km radius without the internet. Therefore, I’ve dealt with the two technologies together within this post, as AI (at least as it currently functions) relies heavily on the internet, and the internet has about 10 billion forms of AI embedded in it.

**Until such time as the 1999 Robin William’s classic Bicentennial Man becomes reality.

Courtney Dutton

Courtney is the face behind the Yarno blog. She’s our fact-finding expert, Instagram connoisseur and the only person we know who can write 1500 words and fix a fence in the same half hour.

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