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Is it Time to Rethink Intelligence?

March 20, 2018

If you’ve considered buying a new car recently you’ll have been offered features such as lane assist, self-parking and satellite navigation. Cars have become cleverer with fully automated vehicles on the near horizon. At the same time, Google now predicts our searches, Apple can recognise our faces and Facebook seems to know everything about us!

Artificial intelligence is threatening to control our lives or at the very least take our jobs.
Imagination, our ability to create something new is a uniquely human characteristic, yet AI is even making inroads here. By collating more data than any human brain could hold, it solves problems faster and better than the greatest scientific minds.

Some jobs would be better handed to robots

A greater concern for workers is, which jobs will remain? An excellent article in the Guardian recently pointed out that some jobs would be better handed to robots, as currently, we hire people to carry out repetitive tasks without harnessing their imagination, discretion or judgement.

At present we can measure and monitor so called productivity to the nth degree, how many groceries is the checkout operator scanning per minute? How many rides has the Uber driver declined? Micro management is widespread, if not from your boss it’s from the systems that monitor key strokes or dictate how a nurse should care for a patient.

Perhaps this stems from an approach to education which has changed very little. Learning by rote, command and control may work for the minority – often those who excelled in the classroom but less so in life. Whereas the maverick free thinkers that eschewed school have often been the creators of art and industry which makes their country proud.

Think of Richard Branson, Adele, James Dyson, JK Rowling, Jonathan Ive, Anna Wintour, Billy Connolly – none of them great academics but all world leaders in their craft.

Too many talented young people are leaving education and taking crummy jobs

As the world of work changes, the world of education needs to develop more Dysons and Rowlings. Too many talented young people are leaving education and taking crummy jobs that robots will replace because they haven’t discovered, or been encouraged in their artistic, entrepreneurial or relational skills. Teachers are not to blame, in fact without so many dedicated (if undervalued) adults working in our schools the situation would be far worse.

Global Best Teacher, Andria Zafirakou

There is hope, this week the $1m Global Teacher Prize was awarded to an art and textiles teacher! Andria Zafirakou, who works in a North London state school amongst many deprived families. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity’ has had over 50 million views. And the term Neurodiversity is providing people with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other invisible neurological conditions to extoll the advantages of learning and processing information differently.

Whether you are an employer a parent or an artist, we all have a role to play in helping the future generation to flourish in a world in which machines do the thinking. Encourage curiosity, challenge bureaucracy and see the genius in the disadvantaged.

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