radical Insights.

Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

Rethinking Education for a World Beyond AI.

Aug 15, 2023

Recently, the (mostly) politics and climate writer George Monbiot made an urgent call for rethinking the future of education in a world of ubiquitous AI, and the argument really stayed with me – perhaps because it wasn’t primarily about an AI-determined future or even strictly about how we teach children.

The column, which is well worth reading in full, is titled How we can teach children so they survive AI – and cope with whatever comes next, but the emphasis, really, is on the “whatever comes next” part. As Monbiot points out, the rise of AI tools and systems that may render long-valued knowledge, job skills, or even whole professions redundant from one year to the next is only one in a coming string of “sudden changes of state” (a phrase that will be familiar to radical readers) that young people will experience.

Accordingly – and I think, correctly, Monbiot doesn’t advocate for a solution squarely focused on teaching children to work with new AI tools or to navigate a world suffused with augmented intelligence. Instead, he argues for widening the “scope of our thinking” to promote greater interdisciplinary learning, prepare students to understand complex systems, and equip them with meta-skills and metacognition (the ability to think about how we think).

The throughline there is an emphasis on preparing learners to face a deeply uncertain future. That doesn’t amount to “preparing them to be unprepared” (I actually low-key loathe that phrase). Rather, it’s about preparing them to thrive in a world of continuous transformation and constant change that will require (and reward!) constant learning. And if this is starting to sound distinctly familiar and broadly applicable outside of the classroom and formal education, it should.

“Rigidity,” Monbiot writes, “is lethal.” How many times have you heard exactly that in the context of conversations about the future of organizations, industries, or – recently – even work itself? The prescription offered by Monbiot and others elsewhere isn’t limited to young learners and the formal education system; it’s broadly and increasingly applicable across the learning lifespan and absolutely speaks to the core challenge of corporate learning and leadership in the decades ahead. (via Jeffrey)