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A double challenge of immense proportions

Feb 22,2020 - Last updated at Feb 22,2020

In the 1980s and 1990s, much of the talk was about preparing ourselves for a "changing" world. At this point in time, much of the talk is about preparing ourselves for a "new" world.

Is there a difference?

It seems to me there is.

The notion of a "changing" world emerged as a response to the so-called Third Industrial Revolution (TIR), when computers, the Internet and the information and communication technologies (ICT) brought about radical shifts in so many sectors and spheres.

And in fact, as of the early 1990s and up until now, the developments that came along with TIR made so many things in our lives, at both the official and personal levels, so much faster, broader and more challenging.

And, indeed, we have all felt the impact of these changes on our "changing" world, and started responding in ways to address the new developments.

With the latter end in mind, most of our educational institutions started introducing programmes in ICT, communication studies, media, business, etc. in an attempt to come to terms with the new challenges, and in order to capitalise as much as possible on the advantages to be gained from such developments.

How much we have succeeded remains to be seen, even though a gut assessment reveals that we have succeeded a lot and failed a lot, depending on the specific sector, specific situation and specific initiative.

And we are still doing our best to come to terms and capitalise more.

In the midst of the efforts to cope with the implications of TIR, we have been confronted with another emerging challenge, one even more daunting than TIR; and this is the world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR).

This is the so-called "new" world.

Much is still unknown about it, but from what we know so far, the changes and challenges are expected to be huge: Artificial intelligence, computers that replace humans, robots with human characteristics, humans with robotic parts, self-motoring vehicles, the Internet of things, erosion of the middle class, restructuring of the whole notion of a full-time job as we know it and so many other unthinkable developments.

We have also been getting a glimpse of what the skills we in the educational world need to enable our students to possess in order to steer through the brave new world of FIR safely.

Some we know, and some we vaguely know: Emotional intelligence, empathy, innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, cognitive flexibility, complex-problem solving, etc.

The point to stress here is that there is a lot we need to do, in specific and concrete terms, to complete what we have started in confronting the "changing" world of TIR, and to understand, plan for, and then intelligently implement in meeting the challenges of the largely unknown "new" world of FIR.

A double challenge of immense proportions.

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