In the Era of Artificial Intelligence, STEM is not Enough
Amazon’s Alexa is now your personal butler at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. Self-learning software developed by Google defeated the world’s best player of the highly complex Chinese strategy game Go. IBM’s Watson saved the life of a woman in Japan by correctly diagnosing her with a rare form of cancer that doctors missed. We are rapidly approaching an inflection point in human history where artificial intelligence will exceed human intelligence, and debates about humans vs. machines have become part of our common vernacular.
How can we prepare our next generation of students to compete?
One positive step being taken in our K-12 schools is a growing emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) education. Clearly, a more comprehensive approach to STEM will help our students fill jobs that require these 21st century skills.
But STEM education is not enough. Geoffrey Colvin, in his book Humans are Underrated: What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will, argues that it is right brain skills like creativity, imagination, collaboration, holistic thinking and emotional intelligence that are the greatest source of competitive advantage for humans vs. machines.
For Colvin, we must play to our strengths and cultivate the uniquely human capabilities of our youth in concert with STEM education.
“As technology takes over more of our work while simultaneously changing us and the way we relate to one another, the people who master the human abilities that are fading all around us will be the most valuable people in our world,” he says.
Teaching entrepreneurship at the middle and high school levels, supported by a network of business coaches and mentors, has proven to be among the most effective ways to develop right brain skills in our youth. The process of building and presenting a business plan tied to a personal passion allows students to stretch their minds in ways that traditional education misses. Unfortunately, too few of our students have access to this kind of training.
But with the right training, anything is possible for our young people. For this reason, I am thrilled by today’s announcement that SAP and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) are joining forces to offer an integrated app development + entrepreneurship curriculum to under-resourced students in the U.S. through a program called Start-Up Tech. This is a small part of a broader effort needed to ignite an entrepreneurial mindset within our next generation so they can thrive in the era of artificial intelligence.