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21st Century career survival skills, Part II

Differences between human and silicon-based intelligence

The computational capacity of the human brain still far exceeds that of any computer. Biological models of the brain posit 225 million billion interactions between all types of brain cells.

Most biologists/IT luminaries agree that our brains are flexible and creative in ways that computers aren’t and perhaps never will be. How so? The human brain has a complex, fluid analogue structure; multifaceted electrochemical synaptic connectivity (far more nuanced than IT-based electrical logic gates); parallel, distributed functioning; highly complex, non-linear memory retrieval; and, a capacity for self-repair. 

Work-life survival skills

Formal education soon gives way to life-long learning, an imperative for career survival. To overcome the twin challenges of increasing work insecurity and income inequality, successful 21st century professionals need to have broad practical knowledge and cultivate the insight required to meet new challenges as they arise.

In other words, occupations requiring sophisticated communications skills linked with specific expertise offer the most secure paths to career stability. (The majority of such careers require face-to-face interaction and so can’t easily be off-shored).

Such professions include a broad range of high-to low-level healthcare industry jobs, ranging from physicians to nursing home aides. More secure jobs in other industries encompass automobile dealership service managers, occupational therapists, postal service mail carriers, electricians, plumbers, speech pathologists, criminal investigators, and aerospace engineers. Looking towards 2020, growth is predicted in renewable energy, next generation manufacturing, augmented reality, robots and (of course) artificial intelligence, nanotech/biotech, social services and education.

Among IT positions, cyber security jobs are the fastest growing. Software engineers and other tech professionals with proven marketing skills will also be in demand. Regardless the continued threat of off-shoring, IT is still projected to outpace overall job growth.

The value of a cross-curriculum higher education

Only a small percentage of university students go on to earn PhDs, the ‘union card’ for entering the specialized, ‘discipline’-based world of academia. The vast majority of students, even in our highest ranking Ivy League institutions, get a BA/BS and then move into private sector jobs.

In a May 5, 2015 statement, Sean Kelley, chair of the General Education Review Committee, said that a Harvard education should give students “an art of living in the world.” Again, this translates into a greater emphasis on cross-departmental studies with focus on the gritty challenges and opportunities of the real world.

At the same time, online platforms like Open Yale and Coursera are automating some of the nation’s best higher education courses–via video streaming and online materials, greatly expanding options for life-long learning. –I highly recommend you go online and explore these and other online educational platforms. Kahn Academy (khanacademy.org), for example, is world-renowned for its outstanding free STEM courses.

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