As a university president, I spend a great deal of time analyzing the present and predicting the future. No wonder I’m always considering our position in this ever-changing world. Seriously, most of our work involves the urgency of meeting the needs of the day, while using every bit of information and vision we can muster to make our programs, our ideas and our mission relevant to a future we know very little about.
Our world is changing at an exponential rate, and not simply because we are in constant battle with an evolving virus, but also because we are in a constant state of data production and the evolving demands the data and human condition put on us.
I heard Alec Ross, the author of the book, The Raging 2020s, speak recently, and he relayed a statistic that bears repeating: 90 percent of all data from humans has been produced in the last two years. He went on to say that in three years, we will increase from 36 billion networked devices to 72 billion. And not because we keep buying cell phones. His point was digital processes are taking over manufacturing and much of the way the world conducts business.
That’s where my interest as president of a university with a liberal education foundation, coupled with professional programs, gets piqued. Ross is writing and speaking about what this means for students, as well as current professionals. We all need different skills, and our students are in the perfect spot to pursue them. GVSU has a long history of teaching, cultivating and nurturing the skills that will be prized as computers take over so many of the functions from humans.
The skills that are needed now and in the future are the skills that computers cannot do better than humans. These skills include analytical thinking, innovation (machines don’t innovate, they repeat), creativity, originality, complex problem solving, strategizing and emotional intelligence.
You may have heard, “EQ is the new IQ.” The well-rounded, liberally educated graduate of Grand Valley State University is poised to take prominent roles in this data driven, machine-humming future. Whether our students and graduates are working on climate change, police mediation training or saving small businesses during COVID (all stories featured in the winter issue of Grand Valley Magazine), they are using hard and soft skills to make a difference in their communities and the world.
It will always be essential to be a human; it will always be meaningful to be a Laker.