Category Archives: Artificial intelligence

What would my grandfather say?

That 28,077 universities are operating around the world speaks to how society has benefitted from them for over 4000 years. We continue to put our money into our belief that universities progress and contribute to our children’s future wellbeing. We go so far as to make sacrifices and incur debt so that our children might attend. So do grandparents.

But progress comes at a price. The new displaces the old, how we work and at what is transformed or replaced, there are winners and there are losers. The process never stops: if it did, I wouldn’t have been able to write this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

Technology is progress and we have to equip our children to adapt to it because we can’t stop it. Choosing the right education for the times will be a critical component of the choices we make, if we’re to believe what The New York Times published in ‘The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite’ (please see below). Management plans to accelerate the automation that began in earnest on the shop floor and has now spread to offices and white-collar jobs that were once considered untouchable. The process dates from when the world’s first commercial computer was installed in the U.S. in 1951, and we’re living with the results.

Not all jobs being done by humans will be eliminated. Many are being upgraded and call for leading edge education and training and new ones are being created. But it will have to be the right education. The old ways are disappearing and jobs along with them. That could impact on 40% of all jobs within the next 15 years. In 15 years of working in transition counselling, I met face-to-face with 2133 people where they worked who were displaced because they couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt.

My grandfather’s generation lived through the Great Depression, World War II and Korea. It used its survival instincts to make it through. He would have argued that conditioning our children to expect that a good job will be waiting for them once they graduate has dulled those instincts. He would have likened higher education to fishing tackle. It isn’t the rod that catches the fish, it’s the fisherman. Choose the wrong bait, cast or troll in the wrong part of the lake at the wrong time of day and there’ll be no fish to fry come evening.

The worldwide pool of students from which employers will draw graduates will reach 262 million by 2025. Those who dangle the right degree in front of the right employer in the right place at the right time and persevere will land a job.

But are we teaching our children how to fish or how to read the lay of the land? In ‘The Prosperity Initiative’ (1991), the Government of Canada warned that:

“Canadians are asking what the future holds for themselves and their families. In a profoundly changing world, they know that traditional strategies are no longer enough to provide economic security and prosperity, and protect our environment. New approaches are needed to meet the challenges that confront us—challenges that threaten our ability to generate new jobs, our standard of living, and our social programs.”

It went on to say that we’d have to extend basic education from 13 years to 17 years by the year 2000 to cope with the world we’d be living in. In 2012, twenty years after that caveat and notwithstanding their degrees, as many as 300,000 graduates were working as unpaid interns in this country because “they couldn’t find work in their chosen field.” Despite the number of options open to them and the amount of time they had to weigh them, how did they manage to misread the labour market as badly as they did? What should they have known? Where should they have learned it? What had become of their survival instincts?

What follows is a snapshot of the lay of the land:

So is this from ‘Private education, A class apart’ (The Economist, Apr. 13th-19th):

“IF SPENDING IS a measure of what matters, then the people of the developing world place a high value on brains. While private spending on education has not budged in real terms in the rich world in the past ten years, in China and India it has more than doubled. The Chinese now spend 5% of household income on education and the Indians 4%, compared with 2.5% for the Americans and 1% for the Europeans. As a result, private schooling, tuition, vocational and tertiary education are booming in developing countries.”

Forbes reports that in the U.S., students are carrying US$1.5 trillion in outstanding loans. They and others describe the situation as a crisis. Bloomberg News reports that consumer insolvencies in Canada have risen to an 8-year high. This may not be the best time to invest in the wrong education.

This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we’re not in Kansas anymore. Employers are building 21st century, Fourth Industrial Revolution workforces, not 20th century workforces.

There are life-altering decisions to be made. To help parents work their way through them is why Personal Due Diligence exists. Your first conversation with us will cost you nothing. Not calling could cost a great deal more.

That’s what my grandfather would have said.

The World Economic Forum, higher education and outcomes for our children

The World Economic Forum “engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Its 2019 Annual Meeting took place in Davos from Jan. 22nd through Jan. 25th.

The WEF is to the world of business what Paris and Milan are to the world of fashion: not everything they present on the runway will appeal to everyone, but it will give us food for thought.

Our children should be thinking about it if they plan to spend 4 years and $46,764 CDN on a basic bachelor’s degree ($87,164 CDN with residence) so that they can compete successfully for work against graduates of the 28,077 universities in operation around the world today. There will be 262 million students enrolled in those universities by 2025.

Nor should we forget that there are over 7.7 billion of us on the planet and that not all great ideas come from university graduates. (Google “successful business people who didn’t graduate from university”.)

On Jan. 25th, The New York Times published ‘The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite’ in which it said, “They’ll never admit it in public, but many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible.” That’s food for thought.

Lives are built on steady incomes. Bosses who plan to replace people with robots threaten those lives, and that threat isn’t confined to soon-to-be graduates. What qualifications will be in demand when our children graduate? How strong will that demand be? Where in the world will it be? How long will it last?

Do parents understand that only certain university degrees will qualify a graduate to compete for a position, but none guarantee that a position will be offered?

Education is serious business, serious enough that what organizations like the WEF publish should be considered carefully because of its long-term implications. Especially now given how the world is changing and how it will continue to change.

Most of what those organizations publish is free. But it’s not enough that it be free: it must also be correct and relevant because of what’s riding on it.

Showing parents and their children how to identify, access and interpret that information is why Personal Due Diligence exists.

F. Neil Morris
President & Founder
PERSONAL DUE DILIGENCE

info@personalduediligence.ca

The labour market: grizzlies and streams where the salmon run

Just when we thought it was safe to think of the workplace as a stable, predictable environment in which to earn a living and build a life, job security is slipping into reverse. Precarious (irregular) employment is becoming more common, governments are working at increasing the minimum wage and employers are still ‘hiring’ young people but not paying them because, those employers claim, they’re volunteers. The law now takes a dim view of such practices.

Deloitte (‘Six trends to watch in alternative work’), RBC Royal Bank (‘Predicting Tomorrow’s Workforce: More ‘bots, More Skills, More Anxiety’) and McKinsey Global Institute (‘What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages’) tell us that technology and higher education will figure prominently in the future of work. But when the rubber meets the road, neither comes with a guarantee of employment, lifelong or ottherwise. The 40-hour workweeks and permanent jobs with benefits and pensions we’ve always wanted for our children are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

(To read about a real-world application of what you just read, please visit GM Gets Ready for a Post-Car Future‘, FORTUNE 500, June 1, 2018, for a description of how and why GM CEO Mary Barra is changing the environment and culture at the 110-year-old automaker.)

Parchment isn’t delivering financial security and above average lifetime earnings the way it used to when the world was a more flexible and accommodating place. Demand for university graduates has never been stronger and more students are enrolling because of it. There are now so many degrees on the street that our children have to navigate buyers’ markets for talent, just-in-time work-forces and environments that reward employers for dragging out the hiring process. By 2025, enrollment at the world’s 26,368 universities will stand at 260 million. More graduates, more competition for work.

There are more different kinds of work to apply for and more new places in which to find it than at any other time in history. But résumé screening statistics show that only 10 job applicants in 100 understand what the labour market is and what makes it tick well enough to motivate prospective employers to call them in for an interview. They also show that only one of those 10 applicants will be offered a job. What they don’t tell us is how the work is going to be structured, how much it will pay, how long it will last and how employees and employers are going to relate to one another.

Our education system isn’t producing graduates who can make the connection between what they learn in school, labour markets, how employers determine what a degree is worth, and going for the brass ring. Every one of the 7.3 billion people on the planet wants their shot at that brass ring.

The National Geographic TV series One Strange Rock aired an episode entitled Survival on April 10th. It showed what survival is in a way that only National Geographic can. BBC Earth is doing the same. Human beings created the technology and shaped the attitudes that define the environments in which we live and and work. Our kids are going to support themselves in those environments.

Grizzlies pluck migrating salmon out of the air as they swim upstream to spawn. The streams are the labour market, the salmon are employment opportunities. Grizzlies know what salmon are, in what streams they’ll be running and how to catch them. We have to teach our children how to find the streams where the salmon run. Whether they’ll choose to fish when they get there and how well they’ll fish will be up to them. 

The world as Deloitte, RBC and McKinsey see it has implications for our children. They’ll have to learn about those implications at our knee because they won’t be learning about them anywhere else.

I teach parents and their young people how to connect school, labour markets, how employers determine what a degree is worth, and going for the brass ring. It’s a skill they’re going to need for the rest of their lives. Grizzlies already know that.

Neil Morris
President
Personal Due Diligence

Three articles, our children, and food for thought

 

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article entitled, Is Your Job About To Disappear?: Quick Take, said this:

“Throughout much of the developed world, gainful employment is seen as almost a fundamental right. But what if, in the not-too-distant future, there won’t be enough jobs to go around? That’s what some economists think will happen as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly become capable of performing human tasks. Of course, past technological upheavals created more jobs than they destroyed. But some labor experts argue that this time could be different: Technology is replacing human brains as well as brawn.”

In his review of “The Golden Passport” in the April 10th New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote, “The book is a richly reported indictment of the [Harvard Business School] as a leading reason that corporate America is disdained by much of the country … Citing a report from the Aspen Institute, [the book’s author Duff] McDonald explains that “when students enter business school, they believe that the purpose of a corporation is to produce goods and services for the benefit of society. When they graduate,” he continued, “they believe that it is to maximize shareholder value.”

The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence appeared on the Opinion page of the New York Times Sunday Review dated June 24, 2017. It was written by Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and chief executive of Sinovation Ventures, a venture capital firm, and the president of its Artificial Intelligence Institute.

Clearly the debate is heating up. At some point, someone or a group of someones will decide the winner, if there is a winner. Others will hand down a verdict on whether or not the Harvard Business School should take the credit or the blame for how enthusiastically business has embraced technology.

Families about to engage with their children in discussions about post-secondary education might want to answer these questions: Will there be 40-hour-a-week jobs with benefits and retirement pensions? Where? What kinds of jobs will they be? What education will it take to qualify for them? It’s a start.