“You say you want a revolution”
This is truly an era of discontinuity. The old models of institutional education, traditional teachers, conventional counseling, and well-worn pathways to opportunity are fraying. In addition they are inegalitarian. Elite institutions are able to provide their constituents with disproportionate advantages while those without access because of location, financial resources or social status are unable to get the “golden tickets” and must settle for a place in back of the crowd.
In the legacy model of human potential previously described in Part II of this series, a variety of human intermediaries have traditionally served to bridge the yawning gap between the supply of talent and the demand side of opportunity. Call them HR professionals, guidance counselors, teachers, parents, friends. The very complexity of the employment landscape, the disorganized nature of the pedagogical landscape, the inefficiency by which talent attempts to find relevant opportunities suggest that human approaches alone are inadequate. What is likely to emerge are new hybrid models that make use of both human touch and data science.
A number of promising technology-based innovations are beginning to fill in the missing middle that separates talent from opportunities, students from employers, citizens from purpose. However, such innovations have up until now advanced the cause in piecemeal fashion, fueled by the parochial interests of profit seeking investors. What is needed now are a new kind of innovation critical mass and new funding models that will drive human capital cultivation at scale and integrate the following functionalities:
PERSONAL DIGITAL IDENTITY
A meaningful approach to personal digital identity is emerging from a portfolio of innovations that allow the individual – not an institution – to control their data and the privacy that protects it. This includes traditional ‘report card’ types of information, but
will eventually support a much broader fabric of self-representation that demonstrates accomplishment, character, and potential. In addition, new digital identity technology will serve as portals enabling access to a wide range of services in such areas as personal finance, wellness planning and more.
Personal digital identity is significant precisely because it is personal, because it allows for a high degree of customization and fit. This is significant because learning assets are increasingly available in the public “distributed space,” whether they are derived from a curriculum module developed at a particular institution, the work of an independent teacher posting their work online, NGOs, employers etc. What we see in the shared space is a growing, if disorganized soup of learning assets that are ripe for repurposing and reshaping. Which leads to…
Orchestration technology is needed in order to curate the best solution for each end-user and use case. The traditional monolithic model of learning in which learning assets are shoehorned into semester long, multi-unit classes that offer no customization is becoming obsolete. New ways to apply personalized, relevant resources to a particular person’s passions and career objectives are now closer to becoming a reality.
NEW LEARNING ASSETS
We are beginning to see efforts to atomize learning assets so they can be searched and recontextualized by AI algorithms, a process that capitalizes on the ability of AI to parse vast amounts of information and make sense of it in a manner that is highly personalized for a given end user. And as content becomes increasingly atomized and searchable it will include some version of a ‘smart’ metadata layer that controls access, consent and usability of itself.
The increasing flow of modularized learning assets into the public space is a striking example of disinter-remediation. A four-year college experience will become less
attractive for many, when a variety of intermediaries, enabled by technology, will be capable of composing learning experiences tailored to the content requirements, learning style and career passions of a particular end-user. Technology will accomplish for standardized education content what CRISPR does for DNA sequences – atomizing the key elements in order to recompose them in more relevant and personalized ways. Entrepreneurs will generate such orchestration capabilities through a variety of approaches to designing increasingly smart, data-science driven platforms. Consider this an example of dis-inter re-mediation!
USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN
Innovation is also occurring in the development of new levels of user experience. VR/AR and emerging metaverse approaches will up the impact and “production value” of digital experiences. Digital twin technology will enable each person to interact with a digital representation of themselves, including an ideal virtual “self” that creates an aspirational horizon to navigate by. This digital twin technology can also serve as an interactive medium for an individual to benchmark their accomplishments, set learning agendas, track their performance, create accountability and more. And with the rapid advance of NLP (natural language processing), interaction with a digital twin
will increasingly become conversational and highly personalized to that individual. These innovations will enable new forms of virtual mentoring, career counseling and even therapy.
Of course what this also implies is the need for a high standard of transparency and trust in our interactions with technology. We will need a new level of AI ethics in designing these systems, one that is not beholden to special interests but is fair and ecumenical. We need regimes that protect privacy and ensure data ownership by the individual.
Regarding human AI collaboration, we will need to develop new rules of engagement. There will always need to be a need for a human in the loop around high criticality decisions such as seeking out surgery for a medical condition or making a radical shift in career. However the collaboration between human and AI for routine, lower criticality decisions is a force multiplier for “human-like” services, that can become more efficient and accountable, thus enabling scale.
In short, what is presented here is a vision for the cultivation of human capital that turns traditional institutional models inside out. No longer will human capital cultivation be subject to the tyranny of established organizations. Instead, a new digital framework will make life planning, learning planning, learning assets, and demand side opportunities available to all. New dynamics will emerge whereby employers will reach out to promising candidates and offer them custom learning and opportunity journeys. People on the talent side will increasingly abandon traditional four-year college and graduate school programs for self-directed modular approaches to ingesting knowledge that relate specifically to their long-term interests as well as to the shifting employment landscape. The impact of this personalization can be amplified by digital twin technology, by digital mentoring and counseling bots, or by hybrid models that include human intervention.
I envision governments getting involved in organizing their national human capital development activity by mobilizing educational institutions to fit into this new paradigm, using advanced technology to stitch the relationship between talent supply and demand, to set priorities by using data science and AI to provide what amounts to a societal-scale matchmaking service between the aspirations of talent and available resources, and injecting a entirely new level of sophistication into human capital policy development.
I see the necessity for the human resource management field to morph from being a set of speed bumps that are aimed at keeping a workforce cooperative and productive
to one that is about maximizing the value and potential human capital without being possessive it while keeping larger societal goals in mind.
And I envision a world of individuals empowered with equal access and resources who are free to swarm to opportunities that fit them and to avenues for engaging in cause related behaviors that fit their values and ideals.