“Like an asteroid heading towards us that will hit between 2029 and 2050, reshaping the workforce of the future” – this was the message delivered to leading educationalists from Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire at a conference held on Thursday 27 April at the Four Seasons Hotel near Hook.
Entitled ‘The Rise of the Robot: Is our curriculum relevant’, the aim of the conference was to hear from two leading experts, Dr Nick Baylis of Cambridge University, and Shamus Rae, lead partner with KPMG, about how and when the rapid growth and advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact the workplace and therefore what practical life skills our students will need to learn at school to prepare them for what will be a massive – but inevitable – shift in their working lives.
As part of a successful three-year ‘Viable Alternatives’ initiative, Lord Wandsworth College and Frensham Heights once again joined forces to bring together senior staff from both independent prep and state primary schools to share the latest advances in AI and their likely impact – and, importantly, to generate a debate on how to better equip today’s children for an uncertain future.
Shamus Rae, lead partner for Innovation at KPMG in the UK, is spearheading the programme to digitally transform the firm. As the AI advisor on several government committees, he is highly regarded as one of the leading business experts in the coming wave of disruption. He shared his expertise, explaining and demonstrating where robots already are in terms of technical capacity. According to him, computers will be 1000 times more powerful than the human brain within just over a decade and will be learning and creating new knowledge without us understanding how.
Psychologist Dr Nick Baylis, who has a PhD in the psychology of successful life development at Cambridge and has written and lectured worldwide on wellbeing and life development, shared what life skills and characteristics he believes schools need to cultivate in their students to allow them to flourish in this rapidly changing world of work: the courage to experiment and explore, encouraging emotions, touch and movement, celebrating difference, embracing and learning from failure, thinking outside the box and the ability to challenge the status quo.
Both speakers were from different ends of the spectrum but interestingly came to the same conclusion – how essential creativity will continue to be in thought, word and deed. And it is something that robots are short on.
The conference ended with a spirited debate about the need to educate parents that exam results should not be the sole focus of an education – strength of character, resilience and creativity will be just as, if not more, important.
Co-host, Adam Williams, Head at Lord Wandsworth College, said: “To listen to the thoughts and views of two of the leading minds in their respective disciplines as to what the future looks like for the next generation and how we can prepare our students for that was inspirational.” Andrew Fisher, Head of Frensham Heights agreed: “Although challenging times lie ahead, both Adam and I were reassured that the paths our respective schools are treading are very much in step with what the world wants and needs: character, courage and creativity.”