Linking learning & labour

I’m a huge Asimov fan, and am constantly amazed at how he was able to have a perspective of the future on multiple fronts. I was reminded of two of those recently thanks to their application (of sorts) in contemporary scenarios.

First, Hari Seldon‘s (pretty much the foundation of Asimov’s Foundation series) psychohistory, which was able to make general predictions on the future behaviour of large populations using history, sociology and statistics. The easy contemporary connection is big data and predictive analytics.

Second, a short story written by him called ‘Profession‘, (do read) in which every person’s profession is based on an analysis of his/her brain, and no choice is given to the person in this matter! In India, we seem to be already there even without the analysis!

Collectively, these two made me think of employment, and on a related note, education. The thought was that with so much of data available on education and employment, we should be able to create ‘tests’ to compute the interest and aptitude of individuals at a very early age. What this would aim to do is to eliminate the herd education that currently exists. Instead, children would learn things that help them in a profession for which they have the intent and interest, using say, a combination of traditional classrooms and MOOCs. Also, this would no longer be one part of a life cycle, but a continuous process – helping the individual thrive in a dynamic environment.

If you remember, LinkedIn was my representative for ‘L’ in the ‘change imperative‘ deck. That was because I felt that it had the data and the vision to be the catalyst for this kind of a change. I was very happy when it underscored this faith with the fantastic ‘future self‘ experiment, in which they identified the future professional self (5 year time frame) of LinkedIn user Kurt Wagner – another user Mussarat Bata – using various data points!

LinkedIn hasn’t really built this as a public tool, but just imagine the possibilities! A platform that shows people the possibilities which take them closer to their ‘purpose’. (remember ‘The Evolution of Work and the Workplace‘?) I sincerely hope to see this in my lifetime. :)

until next time, live and learn


More on the Uncertainty Principles

Ok, so it’s not long back that I wrote about uncertainty, but in this real time world, I can’t blame myself for thinking of it on a regular basis. I wonder if it also has to do with the macro environment I grew up in – the typical 80s kid in India, whose ‘options’ across the board – from movie heroes to restaurants to soaps and television channels usually boiled down to one. (remember?)

From my own experiences, I know it is possible even now, but it’s a choice and a very difficult one at that, and one that might be difficult to reverse later. An extended trip to Kerala sometime back- home, made me realise that there are those who have made that choice, or rather, have for some reason remained in a lifestyle with minimum choices. Belonging to an earlier generation, but who have refused to let the ever changing world rock their boat. It isn’t that the boat isn’t rocked regularly in their ‘small’ world, but the rocking seems to happen within a framework – as though there is some tacit understanding with the cosmos, a reward for not adding to the cosmos’ complications.

Uncertainty has a permanent live-in arrangement with most of us, and now dictates the relationship so much that we take it as a given. I am not a comfortable partner, but for various reasons, can’t do much about it. I wondered what the future would hold. As is becoming a practice with me, I found interesting perspectives in the book I was reading – ‘The Mammoth Book of Short Science Fiction Novels’.

Asimov’s “Profession” had a world where a person’s station in life, and life itself is dictated by certain tests he undergoes at 2-3 points in life – Reading Day, Education Day and every individual is slotted basis the result of these tests. (not exams, mental examinations which figure out the natural aptitude of the individual’s brain) John Jakes’ “The Sellers of the Dream” has a world where companies sell a ‘fashion’ for a season, which includes physical and mental changes done to an individual and changes his/her personality. But in Larry Niven’s “Flash Crowd”, one of my favourites, I sensed the best summation of our current status “For each human being, there is an optimum ratio between change and stasis. Too little change, he grows bored. Too little stability, he panics and loses his ability to adapt.”

I wonder if this is timeless, and am not too certain that the last sentence on losing the ability to adapt is very encouraging.

until next time, certain tees I can’t live without