Saturday 23 February 2019

Irish education system needs 'to wake up fast' to cope with future AI workplace - leading futurist

George Muir
George Muir
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A top industry futurist has said that Ireland Inc and third level colleges here are "nowhere near ready" to cope with the digital revolution of business.

George Muir has spoken at conferences across Europe, Australia and the US on the future of the workplace, artificial intelligence (AI) ethics and how AI will impact our professional lives in the future.

Based in Sweden and a former futurist for IKEA, the Scottish guru spent time advising global software firm - and IDA client company - LiveTiles when they set up their new innovation centre in Sligo last year.

"AI and robotics by 2025 will take over the tasks that you do. As a human being, what are you going to be doing?," he told Independent.ie.

"We need to be able to do other things; the native, traditional jobs will disappear: bank tellers, accountants, fast food workers, factory workers, construction workers, and farmers to name just a few."

According to Muir, the Irish education system needs "to wake up fast" and adapt its approach to provide the right kind of skillsets to enable the future workforce to deal with the oncoming fifth revolution.

"They need to learn to change their teaching practices to enable students here to think differently and properly for this new world and get them to collaborate on a different and advanced level," he told Independent.ie.

"The educational curriculum is based for the jobs in the 50s, 60s, 70s. In five years time, when you need to work in a completely different way you need have skillsets like collaboration and innovation; universities and schools in Ireland are not thinking in that way whatsoever. "

Muir cites Finland as an example case where schools use open learning, no desks or classrooms, with 50-70 students of all ages in the one room all learning and collaborating together.

Read more: Automation poses threat to Irish jobs, new survey finds

A recent iReach study, a poll of 1,000 people, revealed that three out of four Irish people think automation and robots will cause unemployment.

Some 76pc of Irish people believe that job automation will contribute to a rise in unemployment here while almost everyone (94pc) sees "large-scale job automation" occurring at some point in the future,

Just 16pc see "no threat" to employment in Ireland as advances are made in technology while more than half (55pc) view job automation as "positive for the Irish economy".

Muir said that Irish CEOs need to start preparing their companies and their employees for this, and demand change in the education system to future proof their workforce.

"There will be traditional jobs in years to come but there won't be as many. You need to asking yourself how you can benefit by understanding and using AI, asking how you and your business will survive?

However, Ireland is not alone in its complacency, according to Muir, as he said that "almost everybody is behind".

"The belief is that Ireland, in particular, Dublin is a tech hub, but while there may be many software professionals, there is simply not enough and they're not really not working in the right areas.

"The first countries that will change their mindset in terms of understanding the future workplace will become the next leaders; it's not a technology question, it's a humanity question."

Muir is speaking at the one-day Workplace Summit day conference and exhibition which takes place on Wednesday February 6 at Croke Park.

Founder of Six Ideas, and formerly of BBC and Walt Disney, Chris Kane will be chairing the conference.

Online Editors

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