Creative + automated future: If one is to thrive

Fools

Our junior year is coming to an end and so is life as we know it. How can we all be so foolish right now, how can so many schools be so foolish? We saw it coming, why didn’t we take notice of that critical practice AP question about creativity in English class when we had the chance? In that gem of a prompt, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman of Newsweek.com drew attention to the fact “that the public’s ‘creativity quotient’ has steadily crept downward since 1990,” and that “the necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed.” Our world is about to make a dramatic shift in how we live our lives and work our work — automation is going to radically reshape society. We students need a future, but we’re preparing ourselves for a future that’s not going to exist. The lives of the future will be creative, and we won’t be walking the streets of Mussoorie forever — we need to be prepared.

Better Work

We all want a bright future with success, it’s in the interest of us students, and the interest of our school. We also all know, subconsciously at least, that many of the jobs of today will soon be replaced by software and machines — we’re seeing it happen before our eyes — but we’re too afraid to plan for the “yet to come,” we’re only comfortable with what we know exists right now. But the fact of the matter is that the world is shifting to a knowledge-based economy as we transition into an automated world, and the high salary careers that some of us are craving — surgeons, doctors, lawyers — are going to be gone in a matter of years — tech is just better at technical work. A McKinsey report published last year by a host of authors claimed that “globally, up to 375 million workers may need to switch occupational categories,” and that “the skills … required will also shift, requiring … logical reasoning and creativity.” Studies show that the key component needed in the future will be differentiating ourselves from machines. As automation slides in to help with physical work, what we have left are our minds and ideas, and the best way to differentiate ourselves from machines is with creativity — as well as with the others around us who are less creative (competition).

So if many jobs will inevitably be gone, why are some of us blindly following traditional career paths that will shatter before our I eyes in the next decade? Why are some of us focusing on perfecting technical work instead of focusing on our creative side — it’d be a shame to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a degree, only to end up jobless shortly thereafter.

As the great Cory Booker once said, “Our greatest natural resource in a global knowledge-based economy will always be our schools.” For the majority of people, creativity either flourishes or withers during the most developmental part of our lives — so it’s imperative for schools to take notice. Just from a practical point, we students should truly focus on creating the very best versions of ourselves, not just on producing the best SAT scores, but it requires school initiative in addition to student ambition.

Execution

There are a number of ways schools, such as Woodstock, could improve their creative offerings, but most seem to agree on certain methods and programs. Take Ken Robinson as an example — author, educator, and expert on creativity. In his TED Talk, Robinson pointed out that “degrees aren’t worth anything” anymore, and that “every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects[;] … at the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities. At the bottom are the arts.” We have reached the limit of what our current education system can teach us, and to expand the system, Robinson proposes that schools focus on encouraging students to learn how to dance, as one creative solution. Similarly, Robyn Ewing and John Nicholas Saunders, contributors for The Guardian, wrote an article where they explored ways in which creativity could be boosted in the classroom. The two conclude by arguing that schools should implement drama classes to have “creative, communicative, [and] collaborative” skills prosper in children.

Success will begin to depend increasing more on how creative one is, and it’s about time schools such as Woodstock invest in creating creative students by implementing courses that harvest creativity. For its part, Woodstock does have a good drama program, but as of now, it isn’t mandatory. Perhaps one way Woodstock could adapt to this future is to make the program a requirement for students. We saw how successful the most recent musical was with “Once on This Island”, maybe our school should push the program forward — to really put students outside of their comfort zone, and make them use their creativity.

Ken Robinson’s “contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and [that] we should treat it with the same status.” Maybe there will come a day when every school values self-expression just as much as math class. There’s a great quote by Picasso, who said, “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” That should almost be Woodstock’s new motto.

Shyla_mikko

Photo illustration by Shyla Robinson

Better Lives

But a comfortable income isn’t the only thing that we will gain from being creative, automation will free us in many ways. In the decades to come, we might not need to have 50-hour work weeks, and we might not need to live our lives out at a desk. Automation may allow us to be more human with greater happiness, with the key being creativity. A year ago, the New York Times summarized a 150,000-word research paper by the Pew Research Center and Elon University that surveyed individuals who work in technology and education on if they thought that education systems would adequately prepare students for an automated future. In the study conducted, respondents believed that “schools will also need to teach traits that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration,” and that “portfolios of work are becoming more important than résumés.” But many respondents also said “that these are not necessarily easy to teach [in schools],” and some even believed that “education reform takes too much time, money and political will, and that automation is moving too quickly.” This is to say that creativity is the clear aspect to focus on, and is something that needs to be developed over a long amount of time, where we create, and showcase our creativity, with ambition. Competition in the upcoming workforce will be more fierce than ever, and the brilliant ideas and minds will ultimately win.

What we ought to consider is that the transition that the world is going to go through in the next decade is actually an incredible opportunity for our generation to break free from the current norms of work, increasing our wellbeing. If we don’t realize that automation will make a significant impact on the culture of work, we’re no better than our politicians who blame job losses on the Chinese and Mexicans. Job loss in U.S. manufacturing, for example, is 13 percent due to globalization, but 87 percent due to automation. We would be missing out on a better future if we don’t start to think about the changes that automation will bring and the possible advantage of having a strong creative mind. We should be excited for this future; beloved Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sure was when she said at SXSW this week that “[w]e should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is … more time creating art … [and] more time enjoying the world that we live in.”

The Future to Be

As one thing after another falls out of relevance in this quickly evolving world, what remains constant are our mind and ideas. The way we live our next hundred years is deeply important, and in many ways, a creative mind and an automated future are intertwined if one is to really thrive in the coming years. It’s odd, so many of us tend to worry about our next AP or SAT score, or social status, when there’s this looming future approaching that we could either succeed in or fail, based on how we prepare — but as of now, we’re going in blindly. This connection between creativity and automation is something that we all really need to connect — let’s make sure that we’re on the right side of history (the future).

3 thoughts on “Creative + automated future: If one is to thrive

  1. Dhrubhagat Singh

    Creativity does not give us any leverage on machines. If you have read anything about existing AI, it’s that they all run on machine learning algorithms. In essence, machine learning is the constant reiteration of numerous scenarios and selection of these via statistics that gives an “intelligent” decision. You talk as if the future is a threat: machines and humans will soon be one the same, at least rationally (not suggesting emotionally). At the end of the day, what is the brain but a series of much slower observations, reiterations, selections, and calculations? Mathematically, we are far inferior to machines. And if we were to live in a society of progress, we have to realize this and utilize the full extent of machines and their supplementary potential to our normal lives. Traditional career paths are not becoming obsolete. We will still need doctors, lawyers, engineers, poets, teachers, and comedians. However, these paths are actively being transformed to be further enhanced by technology and to involve as much of the “human” contact as much as possible. For example, machines are getting extremely good at recognizing diseases and treating them, probably better than most doctors in the world. However, we still need doctors to walk patients through recovery. To guide patients through birth and death. We need doctors to have the “human” interaction that machines can never fulfill. In this sense, for most career paths (unless you want to become an innovator), I would say that creativity is potentially overrated. Empathy is key.

    Your opinion piece has intrigued me. But I just post this comment to kindly remind you to refrain from having the generic old “humans vs. robots” belief about the role of technology and its impact on your future. Instead of trying to rule over technology and trying to creatively outperform it, let use tech as a supplement to enhance our current skills and knowledge. To enhance our leverage on our ever-growing, complex world.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Mikko Aoki Liu, Photographer

    I think what I meant was that we need to use creativity to CO-EXIST with machines, not to beat it as you have interpreted — I do agree with you that empathy is key, however. I also don’t think my piece is “human vs robots”, I think my point I’m trying to make is that we need to ADAPT to this new future, not to outdo the machine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dhrubhagat Singh

      Fair enough. I really enjoyed reading your piece though. We seriously need to start talking about the changing future more often in our schools so that students can have more realistic career paths. Overall, well done!

      Like

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