Learning For Life

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Take open courses online to upskill for yourself, not just your boss! 

If you were alive during the 90s you will remember the booming industry built around computer literacy. At its peak, organisations like NIIT and APTECH were doing great business, not to mention the countless mom-and-pop set ups that claimed to “teach you computers” within a few short weeks. Everyone – and I really mean everyone, including my 70-year-old grandfather – signed up for these classes, because they knew the world had changed. You couldn’t afford to be a Luddite anymore. You either kept up with the pack or got left behind.

This might seem a bit brutal, but it felt natural – we, as a people, are curious. We seek knowledge and it benefits us to do so – on a practical level it reduces organisational redundancy, increases productivity, and helps keep the economic gears of our world turning. But most importantly, keeps us sharp. It’s easy to descend into a dull fog of predictability when we don’t seek out new experiences and insights.

Things haven’t changed too much – humans remain a curious lot. Despite the sharp decline in those computer classes of yesteryear, though the novelty of the desktop computer has certainly worn off. From becoming an object of reverence that imparted a certain status on the homes it resided in, the personal computer is now increasingly ubiquitous, especially in its much smaller form (personal handheld computers, like mobile phones, are now the primary way people get online ). This doesn’t mean that we can rest easy, however – nor do we want to. The popularity of MOOCs and learning management systems proves this, especially in countries like India, where people view these as easy access opportunities to upskill quickly.

This school of thought has seeped into businesses – there has been a new deluge of job roles, skills, and types of jobs ( who thought a water sommelier would be an actual thing? ) for us to take on. Upskilling is a job requirement, not just something people are forced into doing by the changing world or to evade boredom in retirement. Taking a design course during your engineering days might help you build one of the most aesthetically beautiful pieces of technology in the world, after all. Or maybe you’ll land a job at one of the most popular employers in the world. Learning management systems (LMS) allow people to stretch their wings a little and learn something new.

It’s not just businesses that want more motivated employees. We need to do this for ourselves too. We have spoken previously about how artificial intelligence is taking over so many aspects of our lives. This rise has led to a mass existential crises – what function do humans perform now? Are we going to have to just accept our seeming uselessness and bow down to our new

robot overlords? Not just yet. While it’s great that you can now tell your washing machine to order you detergent as your stocks deplete, technology still needs to be managed and that requires human intervention.

Even the less process driven technologies aren’t a replacement for the less process driven parts of the human experience. While Siri responds with humour and cheer to sassy questions and you have technologies that mimic some of our greatest literary works almost too well, we still haven’t managed to quite replicate the human imagination. Lifelike technologies aren’t life itself. Open courses stimulate thinking in a process heavy, technology managed world. Continual learning is more than just upskilling – it provides us a space to imagine unimagined things, that a computer program can’t mimic. It helps keep this unpredictable, inimitable, ineffable part of us alive.