Critical Thinking and the Future of Jobs

According to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum, the top 3 skills in 2020 are expected to be complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Whereas AI is likely to replace workers whose function relates to low order thinking skills such as memorization, it seems fairly certain that the 3 skills above will be difficult for artificial intelligence to compete with humans over.

The ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is characterized by ‘cyber-physical systems’ in which technology becomes embedded in our societies, our infrastructure and even our physical bodies in new and sometimes unanticipated ways.

Critical thinking skills can help us reach our cognitive potential and optimize how we embrace these inevitable changes. That this is not yet reflected in elementary and secondary education around the world means that people are going to need to learn these skills outside of school and (in most cases) outside of the workplace.

Even many university graduates are ill-prepared for the likely changes to our societies over the coming decades. This is in part because education is rooted in tradition, and is not always fast to adapt or anticipate what the future may look like. Additionally, commercialization of tertiary education is becoming commonplace across many Western nations, and the inherent ‘customer is always right’ philosophy makes a mockery of serious learning. There is precious little guarantee that students will be adequately prepared for graduation day and beyond.

Those sectors in which critical thinking plays a central role, in which we engage with ambiguity and nuance, are likely to grow in size as technology takes over the lower level skills-based jobs. Millions will have to adapt by retraining and those who don’t will be at a distinct disadvantage.

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