Reinventing Education for The Second Machine Age

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This past year we all experienced the rapid acceleration of change in just about every area of our lives. From remote work to the news, our intimate relationship with technology raised more questions than answers.  Today I’m delighted to be joined by Erik Brynjolfsson as he helps us contextualize the changes we are experiencing and to explore in depth how might we shape our destiny, reinventing industries and creating new opportunities that bring everyone shared prosperity. 

Today’s Guest: Erik Brynjolfsson

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI) He’ also the Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. He also is the Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Professor by Courtesy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Department of Economics, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Erik’s research focuses on effects of digital technologies on the economy.

In This Episode We Discuss…

  • Erik’s move from MIT to Stanford
  • What is The Second Machine Age
  • A comparison between productivity gains in the First Machine Age compared to the Second Machine Age
  • Why he’s a mindful optimist when thinking about the future relationship between humans and machines
  • The skills humans need to focus in on to be successful in The Second Machine Age
  • Why it’s not enough to just invest and why we must reinvent education
  • His experience teaching during Covid and ideas education can adapt
  • A research study that allows companies to assess what skills machines do well vs humans and how they can best prepare their employees
  • Policies that governments should consider so that everyone can share in the prosperity of the opportunities today’s world offers.

Design Thinking in The Second Machine Age

I first came across Erik’s work when I read, “The Second Machine Age,” a New York Times Bestseller that he co-authored with Andrew McAfee, a research scientist at MIT. At a time when many fear change and worry that AI will take away our jobs, the book closes with a powerful reminder and call to action, “Technology is not destiny. We shape our destiny.” 

My work with leaders and my research over the past few years has been a response to that call to action. If indeed we have the power to shape our destiny, what are the knowledge, skills and mindset that we need to thrive not only in workplaces, but as global citizens in The Second Machine Age. 

Inspired by Erik’s work and the idea of experimentation, I became increasingly curious and began learning more about how design thinking and the design sprint frameworks could help facilitate the conversations to reinvent our systems. In addition to the skills, design thinking also helps us develop the mindset shift we need to be empathetic, to embrace ambiguity, to make and iterate and to build our creative confidence. Furthermore, design thinking provides us with the structure to have often uncomfortable and overwhelming conversations where it can be challenging to know where to even begin. 

To examine what this looks like in practice, I spent two years researching the systems and practices at Design39 Campus, a K-8 public school in San Diego California. I examined the knowledge, motivation and organizational influences that allowed the educators, or learning experience designers as they call them at D39, to be successful at challenging traditional practices and to design a new grammar of school where the mission is to create life ready thought leaders who elevate humanity. 

As the authors share, “There’s never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education, because these people can use technology to create and capture value. However, there’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only “ordinary skills and abilities to offer because computers, robots and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills at an extraordinary rate.”


Listen in now to the latest episode

I’m Sabba.

I believe that the future should be designed. Not left to chance.

Over the past decade, using design thinking practices I've helped schools and businesses create a culture of innovation where everyone is empowered to move from idea to impact, to address complex challenges and discover opportunities. 

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  1. Sheena says:

    So proud of you, Dr. Q!

  2. Jason Reagin says:

    As usual, an excellent episode!!! So many thought provoking concepts! Keep up the awesome work! Thank for all that you do Sabba!

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