Donald M. Norris
The Challenges and the Opportunities
Globally, the Covid Pandemic caused major disruptions to long established work and learning environments. It disrupted travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment, face-to-face retail, shipbuilding, airlines, and other pillars of the economy. These disruptions have accelerated innovation, pressures to work smarter and become more agile, and the development of fresh visions of the workforce and workplace of the future to assure the current and future prosperity of regions.
But Covid-driven transformation was just the beginning. Even more powerful and sustained waves of disruptions are looming: the economic toll of climate change, the impact of events like the Ukraine war on global supply chains and the economy, and the capacity of new technologies to transform existing industries in dramatic and unforeseen ways. These disruptions will pose unique challenges requiring actions much beyond those required by Covid. The most pervasive is the deployment of truly transformative technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), virtual/augmented reality (VAR), and simulation. Even today, the leading edge of these technologies is changing how companies locate, hire, and develop talent; shortening pathways to employment; and transforming how all sorts of jobs are performed at all levels.
Moreover, already deployed first generation AI/ML/VAR will be extended to enable an Age of Augmented Intelligence, featuring collective intelligence and intelligence amplification. This will transform the global economy and the ecosystem for work, learning, and knowledge, which will become interconnected as never before. By 2030, futurists expect this transformed ecosystem to:
Revolutionize the economics of travel and transportation industries, through a combination of AI with green technologies that will transform shipping, automobiles, rail vehicles, and airplanes;
Spur the deployment of new generations of AI-enabled foresight and simulation tools that will enable enterprises and governments to model the changing nature of the global economy and supply chains;
Transform the nature of jobs, the workplace, and training, reinventing how and when workers acquire, apply, share, and refresh knowledge;
Enhance collaboration, collective intelligence, and augmentation of individual intelligence;
Shorten pathways to employment and enable new, collaborative approaches to skilling;
Require rapid retraining of millions of workers globally over the next decade, as AI/ML/VAR allows the reinvention of both jobs and the expectations of customers and stakeholders;
Demand that successful workers engage in continuous competence building and intelligence augmentation that will span 60 years of work and learning careers;
Reshuffle the roles of learning providers, certifiers, and employers, creating new competitors and empowering major technology platforms to play a pivotal role in competence building;
Create flexible, affordable learning options and facilitate dramatic changes in K-20 and continuing education programs, certifications, and experiences;
Reshape hiring and talent development practices of employers and career planning practices; and
Empower independent learners and workers, expanding their clout.
Getting Ahead of 2030 Issues – Starting Now!
Few regions have articulated Transforming for the Age of Augmented Intelligence as a strategic goal. But we have found examples of regions striving to think and act in the future tense about their economic development efforts.
We have discovered that supporting and nurturing Transformation for the Age of Augmented Intelligence requires the engagement of a broad range of collaborating organizations, typically building on and/or redirecting the efforts of existing workforce and economic development networks – and more. Strategic Initiatives has been working on a set of case studies on joint efforts established to deal in the present with strategic issues that will mature in the future – say by 2030. Each of these efforts reflects the distinctiveness of its region and how its future opportunities have been framed.
Such collaborations frequently lead to the creation of task forces, working groups, and/or networks focusing on regional transformation. For example, here is a figure from our book, Transforming for Turbulent Times, illustrating a network that could be utilized by a group of higher education institutions to support a broader and better integrated program of economic and workforce revitalization and development in their region. (We contend the effectiveness of these efforts can be greatly enhanced using the transformative leadership approach recommended in our book.)
Over time, more efforts like this will emerge as regional leaders realize the challenges posed by augmented intelligence and the opportunities available to regions that act insightfully to build their capacity to prosper in this new environment. If regions have not started by now, they are already late!