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May 24, 2018

Skills for sustainable well-being in the digital age

By Dr. Virginia Dignum, Associate Professor on Social Artificial Intelligence, Faculty of Technology Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

The digital ecosystem is global, worldwide and not exclusive to any country, region, business or sector. The digital revolution cannot succeed without wide participation of all, across the globe, and is leading to a new paradigm that impacts the whole society.

The digital transformation of society is the main trend and the main challenge of this century. Soon everybody will be connected to the Internet worldwide. However, capacity building to ensure that everybody is able to contribute to the digital ecosystem, and to fully participate in the workforce is lagging behind.

Anticipating and preparing for the impact of digital on the workforce is urgent.

Next to the imperative technological skills, increasingly, the human workforce of the future will be challenged to cooperate, adapt to an ever-changing world and maintain a questioning mind.

In the coming years we can expect Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems to be increasingly used in domains such as transportation, service robots, healthcare, education, low-resource communities, public safety and security, employment and workplace, and entertainment. These systems must be introduced in ways that build trust and understanding, respect human and civil rights, and are in line with culture and social context.

“Many new jobs will appear for which skilled human workers are needed with a set of skills that combine technical education with humanities, arts and social sciences.”

In order to build the skills needed and promote a resilient and sustainable digital ecosystem, the following aspects must be central in education curricula across the world:

  • Collaborate: The digital ecosystem makes possible and assumes collaboration across distance, time, cultures and contexts. Skills are needed to interact, build relationships and show the self-awareness needed to work effectively with others in person and virtually, across cultures.
  • Question: AI systems are great at finding answers, and will do this increasingly better. It is up to us to ask the right questions, and to critically evaluate results in order to be able to contribute to responsible implementation of solutions.
  • Imagine: Skills to approach problem solving creatively, using empathy, logic and novel thinking. For this, humanities education is paramount and should be included in all technology curricula.
  • Learn to learn: The ability to adapt and pick up new skills quickly is vital for success, requiring to continuously learn and grow, and adapt to change. To be able to understand what is needed to know, know when to apply a particular concept as well as knowing how do it, are the key to continuous success.

In the same way as the tools that we shape, will thereafter shape us, the digital ecosystem will bring along a redefinition of fundamental human values, including our current understanding of work and wealth.

Many new jobs will appear for which skilled human workers are needed with a set of skills that combine technical education with humanities, arts and social sciences. Consider the following examples:

  • Values trainers: Machine learning requires a lot of human input to teach the machine by labelling data. Providing meaningful labels that tag data with their link to human values and ethical principles is increasingly important to ensure Responsible AI applications.
  • Social Network engineer: has the task to collaboratively design, implement and maintain social networks, bridging digital and physical connections in ways that are meaningful to people and increase people’s participation in the digital ecosystem.
  • Data advisor/data bookkeeper: helps people organise, invest, apply their personal data and digital participation in ways that are aligned with fundamental ethical values and individual principles, helping people capitalize on their digital participation in ‘similar’ ways to what bookkeepers and financial advisers do nowadays.
  • Mood coordinator: supports people and organisations to maintain a healthy mental climate ensuing that health, housing, entertainment, economy, education are combined into sustainable balanced situations, also supporting people coping with life changing situations and to (re) evaluate their skills and situation into new structures

“The drive for human activity is now quickly shifting from owning to sharing: ‘I am what I share.'”

Technological developments in the last century led to mass production and mass consumption. Until very recently, owning has been the main goal, and competition the main drive: “I am what I own”.

The digital ecosystem, including the possibilities offered by the responsible use of AI applications, will favour openness over competition: think about open data, open source, open access.

The drive for human activity is now quickly shifting from owning to sharing: “I am what I share”. Combined with the changing role of work, this novel view on wealth, requires a new view on economy and finance which favour circular economy.

The digital age is a time for reinvention and creativity. Capacity building must embrace these skills alongside technological savvy.

The Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium provides a unique opportunity for stakeholders to engage on access to relevant digital skills and to ensure that everybody is able to contribute to the digital ecosystem. For information on the ITU Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium (CBS-2018) see the event website.

Dr. Virginia Dignum, Associate Professor on Social Artificial Intelligence, Faculty of Technology Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

 

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Skills for sustainable well-being in the digital age

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