Robots still can’t find questions to ask

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Inclusion is being celebrated at the World Economic Forum at Davos, and this is hardly surprising. Inclusivity and diversity have been staples of corporate life for many years now.

But another consequence of life in the digital economy is addressing those who have been excluded by their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, as well as the new economic model. For instance, new technology is enabling greater inclusivity. It was terrific today to see that innovators have built platforms to address gender disparity and pay, to address ethnic diversity and even a platform that enables small businesses to trade competitively against global corporate giants.

However, what skills do individuals need to compete in this new economy? Technology has replaced some key jobs, and these are not coming back. There are many more new jobs being created, but well-meaning government education systems can take many years to take new technology into account.

At Davos it’s terrific to witness positive stories about businesses taking their responsibilities toward workers seriously, training people to use the technology that used to do their job. While not everyone will become, or wants to become, a coder, upskilling staff is not only about coding. Tech is far broader than coding; fundamentally, it’s about having the skills to use technology or even to engage with technology on a professional level. Accountants already have a strong record here, with most big firms training their staff internally and enabling their teams to succeed with the latest technology.

This was exemplified by 11 technology companies that have joined together to provide an upskilling solution for workers, which I found very impressive: http://www.theskillset.org/. Offering an employee the opportunity to be reskilled in a different area is not only great for the employee concerned, but it has a ripple effect; it’s great for their family and community too. Crucially, it’s actually better for the company, as it avoids the trauma, decreased morale and the financial impact of redundancy.

The digital economy and the latest technology have enabled many benefits for consumers and businesses alike. This new wave of artificial intelligence, robotics and all the rest is very good at basic repetitive tasks and answering formulaic questions. However, this technology still can’t think creatively or ask the next generation of questions that need to be answered. It’s been great to witness companies providing the training that employees need to keep asking those questions.

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Robotics Artificial intelligence Machine learning Training Diversity and equality Thomson Reuters