Apra Reviews: ‘Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’

Review by Amanda Ward, director of research and relationship management at Rollins College

What We’re Reviewing: “Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” by Joseph Aoun

How We Learned About It: Apra OverDRIVE/, March 2019

Where You Can Find It: Book retailers such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Summary: Dr. Joseph Aoun’s book, “Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” explores trends in the workforce and higher education resulting from increased automation and sophistication of artificial intelligence. In addition to giving an overview of past and future workforce automation, this book is an interesting and helpful read for anyone hoping to optimize their career by outlining skills necessary to adapt in the age of artificial intelligence.

Key Takeaways: Though Aoun emphasizes technical skills such as coding and data analysis, what I found to be the most helpful and universally applicable were the soft skills he described that set us apart from our robot co-workers. I thought that these were helpful to keep in mind for future professional development.

The first group of skills that Aoun describes are three literacies: data, technological and human. These three languages cross between both machine tools and human co-workers, reaching the full potential in our workplace. Technological literacy is possibly the newest for workers that have been out of formal education for a while — it is a knowledge of the language of coding and a familiarity of how programs work. Data literacy, the interpretation of large volumes of data that are increasingly available, is one language I found interesting because of the data-driven focus in recent Apra programming. I thought Aoun made a great point in particular about human literacy, in that simply communicating is not enough; humans must be able to motivate one another in order to collaborate effectively.

Looking for more reviews written by fellow Apra members? Read Thomas Turner’s review of “Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy,” by Kathleen Loehr.

Aoun goes on to describe four “competencies” to drive both a curriculum model for the future and for personal career growth: critical thinking, systems thinking, entrepreneurship and cultural agility. Critical thinking in humans is distinct from robotic learning in that we are able to look at the context of a situation and apply results outside of the data itself. Likewise, systems thinking — approaching a problem that is more than a series of yes or no questions — is unique to human thinking. For example, a computer model could anticipate the sea level changes or droughts related the climate change. A critical thinking and systems thinking analysis, however, would be able to take the information a step further into related consequences like food scarcity, human migration and habitat destruction. Similarly, the skill of entrepreneurship and invention will drive the jobs of the future. In these ways, using the data analysis power of machine learning will further our ability to make decisions and seize opportunity, not to make them for us. Finally, cultural agility gives us the power to work with individuals of different backgrounds within their beliefs, customs and professional practices: a uniquely human experience.

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