WhAT forces are driving the JOBs of the future?


Lorie Parch, Calstate.edu: We hear a lot about how automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are, and will be, huge forces in defining the workplace of the future. What other factors do you see as having the greatest impact on jobs that require a college degree?

Dr. Lonny Brooks, Cal State East Bay: Students will be affected by AI in the future workforce. And at the same time, there's going to be room for soft skills where those in my profession—communication—will be in demand in terms of translating and influencing how technologies get applied. [Musician] Brian Eno talked a few decades ago about how 'computing needed more Africa in it,' in terms of having more soul… Artificial intelligence will be more eff​ective when it has more African soul in it. That's the danger right now: The algorithms are just perpetuating already existing divisions through amplified intelligence. I think that's what we have to be watchdogs about.

Dr. Phil Greiner, San Diego State: A lot of the education we do in healthcare has to do with preparing people for events we hope they never have to deal with but they need to be prepared for ​if they encounter them. A virtual world is a good place to do that, but the technology is lagging behind… Right now, I can observe a mannequin that is the 'patient,' and I can pick up cues, but I can't interact with that patient. I can't interact with a typical white person or a typical black person or a typical Hispanic person. Simulation technology needs to be granular enough that we can create situations where our students can encounter people as they would encounter them in their community. There's an embeddedness that's currently missing in our approach to AI… The virtual world is going to be a critical way of updating knowledge for current practitioners as well as for students at all levels.

Dr. Thomas Norman, CSU Dominguez Hills: IBM has a computer that diagnoses more accurately than a doctor. So you're going to see that type of AI helping to improve healthcare…. If you look at industrial applications, you can see AR [artificial reality] in Google Glass that records any surgical procedure, so you know if you left a sponge in someone. And it's also going to change the way doctors could get help. Imagine a surgeon opens me up and my brain looks a little different. They could instantly get someone with that expertise on the line and say, 'OK, what do I do now? How do I avoid making a mistake in this situation?'

And to Dr. Brooks's comment about the soul, that's one of the main things I want people to think about with AI. Think of how we get frustrated with Alexa, with Siri—there are no feelings. How do they feel, to your point, Dr. Greiner, about recognizing people for who they are as individuals, right? The number one in-demand job in 2018 according to LinkedIn was in machine learning and number two was data scientist. But number three was sales rep and number four was customer success. So computers are not going to replace us in these feeling, caring professions like nursing.

When I think of the most in-demand skills based on LinkedIn profiles, the top four are all soft skills: Management, sales, communication and marketing. One of the things we as a university of leaders can't lose track of are the soft skills.

Dr. Sheila Thomas, CSU Office of the Chancellor: I heard a radio ad this morning that really kind of brought all of this home. It was touting a return to 'the o​ld-fashioned notion of a real person answering your phone for your business.' I think they've tapped into something that cannot be replaced by automation—that customer service and that personal touch—but it might become a different kind of industry. So you might go to your physician's office and interact with a machine to check in and pay your fee, but those things free up healthcare providers to focus more on patient-centered care. So there's room for all of these things to coexist.