Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group recently spoke at the World Economic Forum about the future of education. Ma is not only a successful businessman, whose net worth is estimated at $42.6 billion, but a former English teacher.
The McKinsey Global Institute reports that robots could replace 800 million jobs by 2030. (Given my age, my mind immediately retrieves images from “The Jetson’s.” For those of you who remember the show, I DARE you to tell me that the theme song is not playing in your head right now!)
Against this backdrop, Ma suggests that the way we teach reflects the past, and doesn’t prepare us for the future. His premise is that it is impossible to compete with machines, so “teaching knowledge” as he refers to it, will not serve us. As a side note, I don’t think he means that we shouldn’t be knowledgeable, but rather that if we think that there might come a time where we can actually know more than a machine, we’re wrong.
His solution? Teach things that machines will never know or be able to know. “Soft skills” including values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork, and care for others. And how are we to accomplish this? Ma recommends that we invest in art, music, and sports. All the things that we cut from education whenever budgets tighten.
From my perspective, this gives us an opportunity to “employ” machines to work for us, and allows us to focus on expanding our minds through creative endeavors. As always, radical ideas raise multiple questions, in this case, primarily focused on employment. But what would be possible for human beings if we approached life believing that our purpose is expansion? What would be possible if everyone committed to expanding more and more each day? And how can you put a piece of this in play in your company today?