When average is over, lifelong learning is key

When average is over, lifelong learning is key

In a recent book titled Average Is Over, noted economist Tyler Cowen talks about how income disparity has increased and will continue to increase in the world.



In a recent book titled Average Is Over, noted economist Tyler Cowen talks about how income disparity has increased and will continue to increase in the world.

Dr Cowen conjectures that the contemporary workforce will be divided into two groups: A small number of technically-savvy individuals, capable of working effectively with smart structures; and the bulk of the population not ready for this kind of work. Average Is Over argues that this growing divide will lead to greater inequality of income.

Today, a lot of work can be done anywhere and the output or products shipped to any place in the world. Capital can come from anywhere on the planet. Companies and people who are truly innovative can market their products to more people around the globe. However, some work would have to be done locally, especially in the service sector.

At the same time, automation is supplanting many jobs, including potentially risky and difficulty ones now. Drones and pilotless flying machines will replace manned missions. Google and many other companies are beginning to demonstrate driverless cars.

As cities face congestion, it is only a matter of time before we see automatictransportation of goods and people. This will reshape a significant proportion of economic activity, eliminating many occupations and creating new ones.

All these new occupations will probably be linked to human-machine interfaces. Even today, when we go shopping or fly in an aeroplane, we sometimes see dramatic changes in the roles of individuals serving us.

We are in the early stages of another revolution: The gradual development and deployment of systems that can conduct fairly routine cognitive functions, such as voice-to-text conversion and automatic voice recognition and response.

IBM is developing an artificial intelligence programme — Watson — not only to play chess, but also to help with medical diagnosis. It has the potential to be used to predict treatment.

Noted New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says everyone needs to raise his or her game just to stay in place, let alone get ahead.

When average is over, the key is to be able to develop skills that are not easily replaceable.

Average, as discussed by Mr Friedman, is a measure of a particular set of variables. Human performance measures (intelligence, emotional intelligence or athletic ability and physical strength) are normally distributed. In any one measure, there will always be 50 per cent of the population that is below average.

But in most cases, individuals will excel in one or more areas compared with others. It is futile to argue whether these privileged individuals merit such talents; children come with their own unique individual talents and attributes, such that no two children learn exactly the same way.

To match the needed skills for tomorrow, we have to first plan what kind of jobs will probably be needed, and then develop efficient ways to acquire those skills. Obviously, some jobs will always remain, especially those in trades and professions that cannot be outsourced. But the mid-level jobs lost during the last recession have gone or been replaced by machines requiring routine cognitive skills.

We can make a few predictions. First, learning to work with technology is an essential skill. Second, since technology is always changing, we need to continue to relearn. Finally, there will always be a place for trades and craftsmanship.

Lifelong learning will be the only way we can continue to work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: K Ranga Krishnan is Dean of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore. A clinician-scientist and psychiatrist, he chaired the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Duke University Medical Centre from 1998 to 2009.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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