The Agenda

Ashwin Parameswaran on Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Close-to-Routine Work

I very much enjoyed Ashwin Parameswaran’s discussion of the future of work, the concluding paragraph of which you’ll find belong (but don’t be fooled — the discussion leading up to it is the best part):

The irony of course is that the Taylorist logic of the last century has been focused so precisely on eliminating the need for such expert know-how, in the process driving our educational system to de-emphasise the same. What we need is not so much more education as a radically different kind of education. Frank Levy himself made this very point in an article a few years ago but the need to overhaul our industrial-age education system has been most eloquently championed by Sir Ken Robinson [1,2]. To say that our educational system needs to focus on “creativity” is not to claim that we all need to become artists and scientists. Creativity here is defined as simply the ability to explore effectively rather than follow a algorithmic routine, a role that many of our current methods of “teaching” are not set up to achieve. It applies as much to the intuitive, unpredictable nature of biomedical research detailed by James Austin as it does to the job of an expert motorcycle mechanic that Matthew Crawford describes so eloquently.  The need to move beyond a simple, algorithmic level of expertise is not one driven by sentiment but increasingly by necessity as the scope of tasks that can be performed by AI agents expands. A corollary of this line of thought is that jobs that can provide “mass” employment will likely be increasingly hard to find. This does not mean that full employment is impossible, simply that any job that is routine enough to employ a large number of people doing a very similar role is likely to be automated sooner or later.

I’m curious as to Ashwin’s thoughts on the advent of blended learning environments and resistance to the structural reform of public education systems. I find his views to be an interesting mix of right and left, and education policy is one domain where he might find himself closely aligned with the neoliberal right.

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