The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here. We need a new education model.
The job market of tomorrow will require people to develop their technical capacity in tandem with human-only skills.
Kevin Dickinson has been an independent writing consultant since 2011. During that time, he's worked as an educator, editor, journalist, and researcher, and written on subjects ranging from religion to Dr. Seuss, film history to Mars' surplus of iron oxide.
- Technological advancements are predicted to take as many as 75 million jobs from humans worldwide before 2022. However, 133 million new jobs are expected to be created in that same time.
- Software developer jobs are growing more than 4x faster than other occupations, a demand that translates to a median wage of $105,590 per year (or $50.77 per hour).
- Kenzie Academy, an online software and UX engineering school with an innovative tuition model, teaches technical skills along with soft skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and team collaboration.
Every now and then, seismic shifts remap the economic landscape. While these afford opportunities for some, they can also swallow the jobs people and communities rely on to support careers and livelihoods. Just ask any lamplighter, log driver, or switchboard operator.
Even jobs that are the staples of history—our butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers—feel the aftershocks. Not long ago, these professions were the linchpins of any community. Today, they are split between small, artisanal craftspeople and mega-factories where a handful of people produce enough supply to provision several communities.
And we're already charting the tremors of the next shift. Called the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, it will see artificial intelligence, digital technology, and advancements in automation supplant vast swaths of the human workforce across many industries.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already underway. Image: Shutterstock
Can we future-proof our careers and livelihoods for this enormous change? Yes, and organizations like Kenzie Academy are moving quickly to help workers develop the skills that will remain firmly in demand in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Don't go the way of the lamplighter
Lamplighters went extinct because electric lines and power grids made their jobs obsolete. Switchboard operators endured a similar fate. As noted by the World Economic Forum in The Future of Jobs Report 2018: "There are complex feedback loops between new technology, jobs and skills. New technologies can drive business growth, job creation and demand for specialist skills but they can also displace entire roles when certain tasks become obsolete or automated."
According to that report, 75 million current jobs are potentially on the line in the upcoming revolution. Unsurprisingly, manufacturing is forecasted to continue hemorrhaging jobs. Despite greater overall output, the U.S. has lost about 7.5 million jobs since 1980. Many blame global trade and shifts in competition for the losses. While those have certainly been catalytic, so has automation and other technological advances.
Other industries that could automate a substantial portion of their workforces include agriculture, food services, transportation, and other forms of manual labor.
At first blush, this places the report in line with folk knowledge that sees the common denominator for occupations in decline to be a lack of high-level education. However, the World Economic Forum also predicts occupations such as paralegals, accountants, administration managers, executive secretaries, and data entry clerks to contract.
That's because the common denominator isn't education; it's job-ready skills.
Precision and manual labor can be performed better, and more safely, by a machine. Similarly, as artificial intelligence advances, digital technology will be able to outperform people in speed and accuracy when it comes to many mental labors. To name a few: memory, mathematics, data collection, time management, and pattern recognition. And the more repetitive an occupation's core functions, the higher the risk it can be automated or computerized.
Hard skills, meet soft skills
The World Economic Forum has defined a new set of skills (left) most required for the jobs of the future. Importantly, they're a mix of hard and soft skills. On the right are the 10 skills that are becoming less important.
Source: Future of Jobs Report 2018, World Economic Forum
So, is the future job market some judgment day-scenario where technology and artificial intelligence take all the jobs to render humans obsolete? Hardly. The bleak picture above is only half the prognosis. The World Economic Forum's report also foresees 133 million new jobs emerging by 2022 to offset the losses.
The catch? Those jobs require tech skills that many working-age people aren't currently trained for.
Schools like Kenzie Academy understand that in-demand soft skills including creativity, innovation, active learning, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving—that is, "human skills"—are not easily duplicated by an app. That is why they are aiming to teach hard skills like technical design and programming alongside the ability to work with a team, problem solving, and even interpersonal skills like interviewing and networking.
Millions of new jobs will emerge in the technology sector: data analysts, machine-learning specialists, software and application developers, new-technology specialists, and Kenzie is taking the lead to make people job-ready.
The fastest-growing occupation in America
Photo: Kenzie Academy
Software developers are already enjoying the windfall of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects software development to be among the United States' fastest-growing occupations from 2018–28, increasing at the "much faster than average" rate of 21 percent. In 2018, that demand translated to a median wage of $105,590 per year (or $50.77 per hour).
Kenzie Academy, a campus-based and online software and UX engineering school, focuses its educational model on software development and UX design to prepare its students for that future. Co-founder and CEO Chok Ooi explains the school's philosophy: "Students learn by building projects and solving problems daily under the guidance of industry practitioners. We teach technical skills along with workplace skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and team collaboration which are equally important for students to master."
Notice the overlap of both hard and soft skills that match the World Economic Forum's analysis. Kenzie teaches students the technical skills and the soft, human skills that are not reproducible in the digital space. Both are essential to the 21st-century marketplace and thriving in a world community bound by shared, interconnected technology.
"It's not just a skill; it's a new language that controls a majority of our world and knowing it will give you opportunities to work in new fields and be ready for the future of work. It is a language that transcends borders and can allow people to work with organizations around the world," says Steven Miller, team member at Kenzie Academy.
Speeding up adaptation
The solution seems easy enough: adaptation. If the skillsets of the current workforce are no longer marketable, we need to develop ways to build new ones or upskill old ones. Were it so simple. Unfortunately, many social and economic barriers impose themselves between large portions of the population and the education and networks necessary for entry into these occupations.
"Our current education system adapts to change too slowly and operates too ineffectively for this new world," Stephane Kasriel, former CEO of Upwork, writes in an article for the World Economic Forum.
Kasriel argues that our education system must be overhauled to meet the future's challenges. It should be a lifelong pursuit, one accessible to citizens regardless of social and economic status. It should also be rewired to equip people with the "meta-skills" machines aren't good at yet, like entrepreneurship, teamwork, and curiosity—not designed toward rote memorization of facts on a test.
He adds: "Skills, not college pedigree, will be what matters for the future workforce—so while we should make sure college is affordable, we should also make sure higher education is still worth the cost, or revisit it entirely and leverage more progressive approaches to skills training. Skills-focused vocational programmes, as well as other ways to climb the skill ladder (such as apprenticeships), should be widely accessible and affordable."
Rethinking student debt
Another barrier is financial. Few people can afford to pay for a bachelor's degree and those who can't take on immense debt to try. This leads to an untenable pattern where the debt, not the learning, becomes the lifelong pursuit.
Kenzie Academy's solution is a unique income share agreement that doesn't force students to repay their tuition fees until they earn a baseline of $40,000 a year. When they begin, they repay 13 percent of income for up to four years. The school also secured $100 million in financing to help further reduce the financial burden.
"There are millions of Americans who are barred from high-quality post-secondary education because of where they live and their financial situation. And many who are 'lucky enough' to go to college find themselves buried in debt and without a job," said Ooi in a release announcing the funding. "This $100 million will level the playing field, enabling deserving individuals, regardless of their background, to access high-quality training that leads to a high paying job in tech for only $100 upfront."
Is the future secure?
The jobs landscape in 2022. Source: Future of Jobs Report 2018, World Economic Forum
Will software development and other emerging jobs one day go the way of log drivers and lamplighters? Will Silicon Valley become tomorrow's Rust Belt? While possible, that future is incredibly unlikely or, at the very least, far off.
In a 2013 study out of Oxford University, researchers used a Gaussian process classifier to estimate the probability that occupations could be computerized. The researchers assigned a probability for 702 jobs. The probability that software development would be computerized was 4.2 percent. The top 10 emerging jobs roles listed by the World Economic Forum in its Future of Jobs Report: 2018 held similarly low probability. (For the record, the researchers found that occupations such as telemarketers, insurance underwriters, and mathematical technicians all faced a 99 percent probability of computerization.)
Because of their proximity, artificial intelligence and programming jobs are certainly interconnected. Despite this, the trend today is for A.I.-powered tools to take on programming's busywork, leaving the programmer the time to solve novel and complex problems in creative ways.
Of course, no one can divine the future. Some paradigm shift may one day invent an app that's better at being human than, well, humans. Until then, the future of work looks to value the very skills that make us human—and some technical know-how too.
Ready to learn the skills needed for the future of work? Click here to learn more: Kenzie.Academy
The author of 'How We Read' Now explains.
During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework.
As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material?
The answers to both questions are often “no," as I discuss in my book “How We Read Now," released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.
Print versus digital reading
The benefits of print particularly shine through when experimenters move from posing simple tasks – like identifying the main idea in a reading passage – to ones that require mental abstraction – such as drawing inferences from a text. Print reading also improves the likelihood of recalling details – like “What was the color of the actor's hair?" – and remembering where in a story events occurred – “Did the accident happen before or after the political coup?"
Studies show that both grade school students and college students assume they'll get higher scores on a comprehension test if they have done the reading digitally. And yet, they actually score higher when they have read the material in print before being tested.
Educators need to be aware that the method used for standardized testing can affect results. Studies of Norwegian tenth graders and U.S. third through eighth graders report higher scores when standardized tests were administered using paper. In the U.S. study, the negative effects of digital testing were strongest among students with low reading achievement scores, English language learners and special education students.
My own research and that of colleagues approached the question differently. Rather than having students read and take a test, we asked how they perceived their overall learning when they used print or digital reading materials. Both high school and college students overwhelmingly judged reading on paper as better for concentration, learning and remembering than reading digitally.
The discrepancies between print and digital results are partly related to paper's physical properties. With paper, there is a literal laying on of hands, along with the visual geography of distinct pages. People often link their memory of what they've read to how far into the book it was or where it was on the page.
But equally important is mental perspective, and what reading researchers call a “shallowing hypothesis." According to this theory, people approach digital texts with a mindset suited to casual social media, and devote less mental effort than when they are reading print.
Podcasts and online video
Given increased use of flipped classrooms – where students listen to or view lecture content before coming to class – along with more publicly available podcasts and online video content, many school assignments that previously entailed reading have been replaced with listening or viewing. These substitutions have accelerated during the pandemic and move to virtual learning.
Surveying U.S. and Norwegian university faculty in 2019, University of Stavanger Professor Anne Mangen and I found that 32% of U.S. faculty were now replacing texts with video materials, and 15% reported doing so with audio. The numbers were somewhat lower in Norway. But in both countries, 40% of respondents who had changed their course requirements over the past five to 10 years reported assigning less reading today.
A primary reason for the shift to audio and video is students refusing to do assigned reading. While the problem is hardly new, a 2015 study of more than 18,000 college seniors found only 21% usually completed all their assigned course reading.
Maximizing mental focus
Researchers found similar results with university students reading an article versus listening to a podcast of the text. A related study confirms that students do more mind-wandering when listening to audio than when reading.
Results with younger students are similar, but with a twist. A study in Cyprus concluded that the relationship between listening and reading skills flips as children become more fluent readers. While second graders had better comprehension with listening, eighth graders showed better comprehension when reading.
Research on learning from video versus text echoes what we see with audio. For example, researchers in Spain found that fourth through sixth graders who read texts showed far more mental integration of the material than those watching videos. The authors suspect that students “read" the videos more superficially because they associate video with entertainment, not learning.
The collective research shows that digital media have common features and user practices that can constrain learning. These include diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset, a propensity to multitask, lack of a fixed physical reference point, reduced use of annotation and less frequent reviewing of what has been read, heard or viewed.
Digital texts, audio and video all have educational roles, especially when providing resources not available in print. However, for maximizing learning where mental focus and reflection are called for, educators – and parents – shouldn't assume all media are the same, even when they contain identical words.
Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.
- People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
- They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
- Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Ancient mining areas below Paris for limestone (red) and gypsum (green).Credit: Émile Gérards (1859–1920) / Public domain
"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless."
China Miéville's fantasy novel Un Lun Dun is set in an eerie mirror version of London. In it, he hints that other cities have similar doubles. On the list that he offhandedly rattles off, Paris stands out. Because the City of Light really does have a twisted sister. Below Paris Overground is Paris Underground, the City of Darkness.
Most people will have heard of the Catacombs of Paris: subterranean charnel houses for the bones of around six million dead Parisians. They are one of the French capital's most famous tourist attractions – and undoubtedly its grisliest.
But they constitute only a small fragment of what the locals themselves call les carrières de Paris ("the mines of Paris"), a collection of tunnels and galleries up to 300 km (185 miles) long, most of which are off-limits to the public, yet eagerly explored by so-called cataphiles.
The Grand Réseau Sud ("Great Southern Network") takes up around 200 km beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements (administrative districts), all south of the river Seine. Smaller networks run beneath the 12th, 13th, and 16th arrondissements. How did they get there?
Paris stone and plaster of Paris
It all starts with geology. Sediments left behind by ancient seas created large deposits of limestone in the south of the city, mostly south of the Seine; and gypsum in the north, particularly in the hills of Montmartre and Ménilmontant. Highly sought after as building materials, both have been mined since Roman times.
The limestone is also known as Lutetian limestone (Lutetia is the Latin name for ancient Paris) or simply "Paris stone." It has been used for many famous Paris landmarks, including the Louvre and the grand buildings erected during Georges-Eugène Haussmann's large-scale remodelling of the city in the mid-19th century. The stone's warm, yellowish color provides visual unity and a bright elegance to the city.
The fine-powdered gypsum of northern Paris, used for making quick-setting plaster, was so famed for its quality that "plaster of Paris" is still used as a term of distinction. However, as gypsum is very soluble in water, the underground cavities left by its extraction were extremely vulnerable to collapse.
Like living on top of a rotting tooth: subsidence starts far below the surface, but it can destroy your house.Credit : Delavanne Avocats
In previous centuries, a road would occasionally open up to swallow a chariot, or even a whole house would disappear down a sinkhole. In 1778, a catastrophic subsidence in Ménilmontant killed seven. That's why the Montmartre gypsum quarries were dynamited rather than just left as they were. The remaining gypsum caves were to be filled up with concrete.
The official body governing Paris down below is the Inspection Générale des Carrières (IGC), founded in the late 1770s by King Louis XVI. The IGC was tasked with mapping and, where needed, propping up the current and ancient (and sometimes forgotten) mining corridors and galleries hiding beneath Paris.
A delightful hiding place
Also around that time, the dead of Paris were getting in the way of the living. At the end of the 18th century, their final destination consisted of about 200 small cemeteries, scattered throughout the city — all bursting at the seams, so to speak. There was no room to bury the newly dead, and the previously departed were fouling up both the water and air around their respective churchyards.
Something radical had to happen. And it did. From 1785 until 1814, the smaller cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were transported with full funerary pomp to their final resting place in the ancient limestone quarries at Tombe-Issoire. Three large and modern cemeteries were opened to receive the remains of subsequent generations of Parisians: Montparnasse, Père-Lachaise, and Passy.
The six million dead Parisians in the Catacombs, from all corners of the capital and across many centuries, together form the world's largest necropolis — their now anonymized skulls and bones methodically stacked, occasionally into whimsical patterns. The Catacombs are fashioned into a memorial to the brevity of life. The message above the entrance reads: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort. ("Halt! This is the empire of Death.")
That has not stopped the Catacombs, accessible via a side door to a classicist building on the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, making just about every Top 20 list of things to see in Paris.
An underground economy
However, while the Catacombs certainly are the most famous part of the centuries-old network beneath Paris, and in non-pandemic times draw thousands of tourists each day, they constitute just 1.7 km (1 mile) of the 300-km (185-mile) tunneling total.
Subterranean Paris wasn't just used for mining and storing dead people. In the 17th century, Carthusian monks converted the ancient quarries under their monastery into distilleries for the green or yellow liqueur that still carries their name, chartreuse.
Because the mines generally keep a constant cool temperature of around 15° C (60° F), they were also ideal for brewing beer, as happened on a large scale from the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century. Several caves were dug especially for establishing breweries, and not just because of the ambient temperature: going underground allowed brewers to remain close to their customers without having to pay a premium for real estate up top.
Overview of the Paris Catacombs.Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain.
At the end of the 19th century, the underground breweries of the 14th arrondissement alone produced more than a million hectoliters (22 million gallons) per year. One of the most famous of Paris' underground breweries, Dumesnil, stayed in operation until the late 1960s.
In that decade, the network of corridors and galleries south of the Seine, long since abandoned by miners, became the unofficial playground for the young people of Paris. They explored the fantastical world beneath their feet, in some cases via entry points located in their very schools. Fascinated, these cataphiles ("catacomb lovers") read up on old books, explored the subterranean labyrinth, and drew up schematics that were passed around among fellow initiates as reverently as treasure maps.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in Underland, Paris-beneath-their-feet became "a place where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface."
Some larger caves turned into notorious party zones: a 7-meter-tall gallery below the Val-de-Grâce hospital is widely known as "Salle Z." Over the last few decades, various other locations in subterranean Paris have hosted jazz and rock concerts and rave parties — like no other city, Paris really has an "underground music scene."
Hokusai's Great Wave as the backdrop to the "beach" under Paris.Credit: Reddit
Cataphiles vs. cataphobes
With popularity came increased reports of nuisance and crime — the tunnels provided easy access to telephone cables, which were stolen for the resale value of their copper.
The general public's "discovery" of the underground network led the city of Paris to officially interdict all access by non-authorized persons. That decree dates back to 1955, but the "underground police" have an understanding with seasoned cataphiles. Their main targets are so-called tourists, who by their lack of knowledge expose themselves to risk of injuries or worse, and degrade their surroundings, often leaving loads of litter in their wake.
The understanding does not extend to the IGC. Unlike in the 19th century, when weak cavities were shored up by purpose-built pillars, the policy now is to inject concrete to fill up endangered spaces — thus progressively blocking off parts of the network. That procedure has also been used to separate the Catacombs to prevent "infiltration" of the site by cataphiles.
Many subterranean streets have their own names, signs and all. This is the Rue des Bourguignons (Street of the Burgundians) below the Champs des Capucins (Capuchin Field), neither of which exists on the surface.Credit: Jean-François Gornet via Wikimedia and licensed under
The cataphiles, however, are fighting back. In a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, they are reopening blocked passages and creating chatières ("cat flaps") through which they can squeeze into chambers no longer accessible via other underground corridors.
Catacomb climate control
Alone against the unstoppable tide of concrete, the amateurs of Underground Paris would be helpless. But the fight against climate change may turn the subterranean labyrinths from a liability into an asset — and the City of Paris into an ally.
The UN's 2015 Climate Plan — concluded in Paris, by the way — requires the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. And Paris itself wants to be Europe's greenest city by 2030. More sustainable climate control of our living spaces would be a great help toward both targets. A lot of energy is spent heating houses in winter and cooling them in summer.
This is where the constant temperature of the Parisian tunnels comes in. It's not just good for brewing beer; it's a source of geothermal energy, says Fieldwork, an architectural firm based in Paris. It can be used to temper temperatures, helping to cool houses in summer and warming them in winter.
One catch for the cataphiles: it also works when the underground cavities are filled up with concrete. So perhaps one day, Paris Underground, fully filled up with concrete, will completely fall off the map, reducing the city's formerly real doppelgänger into an air conditioning unit.
Cool in summer, warm in winter: Paris Underground could become Paris A/C.Credit: Fieldwork
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