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Surge Predicted in Artificial-Intelligence Training

As machines and technology continue to transform the workplace, technologist, futurists and scholars predict a growing number of workers will reach to artificial intelligence training programs, online courses and "micro-credentialing" in a bid to keep up, the Pew Research Center says.

(CN) - As machines and technology continue to transform the workplace, the Pew Research Center says technologists, futurists and scholars are predicting a surge of interest in artificial-intelligence training programs, online courses and “micro-credentialing."

Many of the 1,408 people whom Pew Researchers spoke with are uncertain, however, if workers will be prepared to compete with artificial-intelligence tools, according to the report released Wednesday, in cooperation with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center.

“The vast majority of these experts wrestled with a foundational question: What is special about human beings that cannot be overtaken by robots and artificial intelligence?” said Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research at Pew Research Center and co-author of this report.

“They were focused on things like creativity, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking, teamwork and the special attributes tied to leadership. Many made the case that the best educational programs of the future will teach people how to be lifelong learners, on the assumption that no job requirements today are fixed and stable,” Rainie said.

This report, part three of a five-part series on the future of the internet, is based on a canvassing conducted from July 1 to Aug. 12, 2016.

It found that 7 in 10 of the experts in the non-random sampling said they expect major changes in education and jobs-training programs between now and 2026.

But some feared that education will not meet new challenges. And others argued that even if it does, businesses will implement algorithm-driven solutions to replace people in many millions of jobs, economic divides will widen, and capitalism will undermine itself.

Among the questions asked during the canvas was: "In the next 10 years, do you think we will see the emergence of new educational and training programs that can successfully train large numbers of workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future?"

An overwhelming number -- 70 percent - said they do expect new approaches will emerge and be successful. Many also said they will they expect exciting new education and training options to emerge between now and 2026, those who can afford to pay for a college education will still find it relevant and valuable.

Of the 30 percent of respondents that held a negative view, most predicted that adaptation in teaching environments will not be sufficient to prepare workers for future jobs.

A smaller share of these experts also predicted that capitalism is in trouble as algorithms advance steadily, replacing millions of workers.

On a more granular level, respondents said as the training ecosystem continues to evolve, more learning systems will migrate online.

Some will be self-directed, with some offered or required by employers; others will be hybrid of online and real-world classes. Whichever the case, workers will be expected to learn continuously, the respondents said.

They also expect online courses to get a big boost from advances in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

And while universities still have special roles to play in preparing people for life, but some are likely to diversify and differentiate, the respondents said.

The survey also provided a window into what employers will be looking for in their future workers

According to the majority of survey respondents, tough-to-teach intangibles such as emotional intelligence, curiosity, creativity, adaptability, resilience and critical thinking will be most highly valued.

While the traditional college degree will still hold sway in 2026, more employers may accept alternate credentialing systems as self-directed learning options and their measures evolve, the experts said.

And they said proof of competency may be in the real-world work portfolios.

But, inevitably, gazing into the future filled some respondents with concern.

Many said that within the next decade, the existing education systems will not be up to the task of adapting to train or retrain people for the skills that will be most prized in the future.

And many of those doubts hinge upon a lack of political will and necessary funding to bring those systems up to snuff.

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