Watch out, advanced countries, your time may be limited !

It is a fallacy that every possible job requiring rational decisions will be robotized in future years. The reason is that, in order to make progress in any discipline, previous rational assumptions have to be thrown into the air sooner or later and new ideas incorporated. In academic language this is called a ‘paradigm shift’ after Thomas Kuhn, its proposer in 1962.

But how can a robot be programmed to recognise that its particular discipline needs a paradigm shift? It can’t. All its software hitherto would have been quite satisfactory and it would have no reason to change or want to change. It will still have to remain a fact that in every discipline those who are at the forefront will still be humans and not robots because only they can make the necessary paradigm shifts when necessary.

The two economic growth areas of the future in the dozen or so advanced countries are educational and health services. If any of the 170 undeveloped countries of the world want to break meaningfully into the high value trading network of the advanced countries then they will have to have leading edge scientific research areas in those subjects and to offer the latest expertise for trade.

This is going to be possible when enough software writers write efficient learning programs in educational and health care. By this is meant software programs that teach only the essential framework of a subject, leaving out a huge amount of extraneous data that’s presently taught and kept in being by the various restrictive practices that presently hold sway — via governmental privileges — in the dozen or so advanced countries.

Out of billions of young people in the world in the coming years — poor, middling and rich – with access to increasingly cheap smartphones, there will be thousands, or at least hundreds, who will want  to write efficient learning programs for the attention of their peers who wish to get to the leading edge in one subject or another — particularly in education and health — as rapidly as possible, not having to be stalled — as they are now — for many years by protective practices. They will be competing energetically.

If some of the software writers live under governments which are prepared to give them freedom to operate domestically ad lib — that is, without protective practices hanging over them — then they’ll make rapid headway in filling their domestic markets. After then, the world will be their oyster! Watch out, advanced countries, your time may be limited!

(P.S. The above is a modern version of a forecast I made originally in 1984 — long before smartphones were ever dreamed of! — when my book, Introduction to Computer-Assisted Learning was published.  It is only recently, 30 years later, that I can discern the possibility just around the corner.)

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