In researching this issue’s story about Bellarmine’s robotics lab, I came across a cool term: “cognitive dexterity.” The term appears in a story in The Economist about the future of jobs.
The story, “The Onrushing Wave,” is one of about a billion stories online (some probably written by computers) predicting what will become of us once robots, artificial intelligence and IBM’s Watson supercomputer take their eyes off of hotel reservations and driverless cars long enough to come after the rest of our jobs.
The good news is that industrialization and computerization, while occasionally taking jobs in the short term, have always led to greater long-term prosperity and job growth. And I’m not just saying that because jobs for editors, along with dentists and the clergy, seem to be pretty safe for now, according to the article. (Real-estate agents, accountants and pilots, beware.)
From the industrial revolution until today, each wave of rapid technological advancement has prompted predictions either of certain doom or of the 15-hour work week, but neither has come to pass. What has happened is that workers with “cognitive dexterity” have been rewarded with more challenging and interesting jobs, a prediction that bodes well for Bellarmine graduates whether you’re handy with robots or not. The liberal arts were producing cognitively dexterous people before cognitive dexterity was cool.
Mind you, I’m not saying I’m particularly cognitively dexterous, I’m just saying I’d be much less cognitively dexterous if I hadn’t gone to Bellarmine. You probably feel the same way. Cognitive dexterity is the business Bellarmine is in. The liberal arts also imbue students with the compassion to help create meaningful lives for the cognitively lethargic and the cognitively clumsy.
And far more valuable than future job prospects at Spacely Space Sprockets is the lifelong pursuit of truth we learned to love at Bellarmine. I would live in a shabbier house, I would drive a crappier car, I would eat out less – heck, other than my family and friends, I would give up pretty much everything before I would give up my education.
While Bellarmine’s core curriculum continues to educate the whole person, many disciplines like computer science, physics, mathematics and analytics are also offering students exciting windows to our sleek, high-tech future of self-flying planes and personal jetpacks. Professor Akhtar Mahmood’s robotics lab is just one fun and artful example.
Has your livelihood been affected by big data or artificial intelligence? Was the impact bad or good … or both? Write to us at email@example.com – or have your robot do it.
Jim Welp ’81 | firstname.lastname@example.org