Nader Dabit


The Disruption of Education

February 7th 2017

Software, Artificial Intelligence, and the New Industrial Revolution

Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Research and an adjunct professor at Stanford University (photo courtesy of

In the world of business, startups and technology, disruption is a fashionable and widely discussed topic. Rarely does a week pass that we do not hear about a startup or technology company disrupting an industry or traditional business model, displacing countless workers, creating millionaires and billionaires seemingly overnight and catapulting young geeks into the realm of pop culture status.

The topic is so common that it has even become cliche to discuss. We’ve all heard the stories of Spotify, Netflix, and Airbnb among countless others, and now it’s newest victim Hollywood.

Automation and networking play a large part in this disruption, almost without exception.

Automation and Networking

The one-two punch of automation and globalization has shaken small town America to it’s core, uprooting families that have become accustomed to living a middle class life for generations, and pushing them closer to and under the poverty line.

Doom and gloom politicians pit our distrust of technology against our own best interests in the race to win the minds and hearts of the voters, promising to bring back the old world economy and resurrect deprecated 20th century manufacturing, ignoring the data telling us this is all but a pipe dream.

While it can’t be denied that jobs are being displaced, what seemingly gets less attention is the other side of this story, which is the tremendous potential for wealth creation and job growth spurred by these innovations.

Automation is hard

Popular culture conveys the idea of automation like some sort of magic, something that happens almost effortlessly when companies choose automation over their previous models.

In reality, automation is extremely complex and requires skilled, educated, specialized workers collaborating and creating new and innovative ways to solve extremely complex problems. The end result must be an order of magnitude more efficient (than the previous human intensive processes already in place) in order to make business sense.

Hiring these workers is not cheap, and the more automation that is happening, the higher the demand is for engineers, designers, product managers, and countless other people that go into this ecosystem, driving the demand and wages for these people higher and higher.

The interesting part is that the average wage for jobs that are in demand usually far outweigh the wages of the jobs being replaced. When a minimum wage fast food employee is replaced by a computer screen, it is certainly not something to be celebrated, but there is a glaring opportunity there that must be pointed out and exploited.

What if that same fast food worker could spend 6 months specializing her skill set and go back into the job market demanding 5x her previous wage? What I just proposed is the reality of the world we are living in now in the year 2017. The problem is that these opportunities are not taken seriously by the majority of people, at least not yet.

The root of the problem lies in this: many do not yet value technical jobs in the same way that they do traditional jobs.

A very common argument or attitude is that people claim that they are not “technical” or interested in technology.

Logically this is an invalid argument. All of the research in the world right now points to the fact that skills are not inherent, they are learned. If you are struggling to find work in your field or have a family to provide for and have been laid off from a 20th century job, ignoring numerous glaring opportunities to get back into the job market because of your personal job preference could be viewed as entitled to put it nicely.

This would be the equivalent of a Mississippi resident living 200 years ago saying “sorry, I’m not ‘agricultural minded’ or interested in agriculture, so I’m just going to wait until something comes along that suits me”, then complaining that there are no jobs.

The synergy between Automation and Networking

In the next 15 to 30 years, traditional higher education will be disrupted.

Networking and crowdsourcing will make it easier than ever to access world class educators for a fraction of the price of traditional colleges. This means that for much less than what people are paying for the average sub-standard community college education you will be able to access Ivy League educators and academic training, and do so from the comfort of your home.

Coding boot camps and specialized training will also see tremendous growth.

Business is already booming for hacker schools like HackReactor, specializing in software development, that have 98% job placement over the course of 21 weeks with an average salary of $104,000.00, all at a cost of about 50% of that of a traditional state college.

Ionic Framework Workshop at Hack Reactor

The best part about this is that the people graduating these coding schools are entering a job market that not only will have an estimated shortage of 1 million workers by 2020, but is also one of the highest paying fields in the world.

In the knowledge economy, results are the only thing that matters, and employers are starting to understand that. Facebook, Google, IBM, and a large number of other companies are not only hiring those without a degree, they are making it known that it is no longer a requirement, and are a part of a larger trend to move away from traditional job requirements and into the 21st century of results driven human resources practices.

Unless you are majoring in medicine, law, or a handful of fields where traditional accreditation makes or breaks the eligibility of the graduate to find work, it does not make sense to plunge yourself into debt while simultaneously wasting your most valuable resource, your time.

Going in debt by $30,000 (not counting the cost of living with no income and other opportunity cost of time spent) to go to a mediocre college over the course of 4 years will sound about as ridiculous as driving to blockbuster to rent a vhs and then returning it 4 days later (with a late fee).

The reason for all of this is extremely simple: return on investment. If someone or someplace offers a 10x value, then it wins the consumer and ultimately the market. This is how disruption happens. We are already seeing this phenomenon happen around the world.

Kim Ki Hoon — Earns $4million / year as a tutor

The $4 million dollar teacher

With recent innovations in the education space, people can connect with and learn from world class industry leading experts in their chosen field and or receive an Ivy League education, sometimes for free.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are already making this possible, Ivy League colleges such as Harvard and Yale are already giving away free courses online, and top tier colleges like Stanford and MIT have also thrown in their hats.

MOOC teachers, who in the future will be mainly specialists, will be one of the highest paid careers in the world. A single teacher will be able to teach millions of students, also balancing out the education divide we see now around the world and improving the quality of life of those who are most in need of it.

The first known example of this type is a teacher in South Korea that goes by the name of Kim Ki-hoon. Because of his proven results and track record, he is now making over $4 million / year teaching, most of which comes from online classes.

“The bulk of Mr. Kim’s earnings come from the 150,000 kids who watch his lectures online each year. (Most are high-school students looking to boost their scores on South Korea’s version of the SAT.)“ — Wall Street Journal (cited)

Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu, cofounder of CourseEra, and adjunct professor at Stanford University is one of the world’s leading experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence. You can take his machine learning class now for free online through CourseEra along with scores of other classes taught by other highly qualified people.

Imagine your morning physics class being taught by the most recent Nobel Prize winner in Physics, your afternoon Computer Science class being taught by a Google engineer, and your evening writing class taught by the author who wrote your favorite NYT best seller? Does this sound kind of crazy? This is what the future economy dictates.

Why would I want to take an economics class from a mediocre local college when I could be being taught by a world leader in the field I am studying, especially if the latter was cheaper? I would not, it just wouldn’t make sense.

As these specialists become more accessible as teachers, career specialization will also become easier and more accessible.

Lifelong learning

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” - Alvin Toffler

Gone are the days when an education would last someone an entire lifetime. The smartest among our ancestors have always known this, but this is quickly becoming less of an advantage and more of a necessity.

People who do not continue their education will not be able to keep up with the their peers and the rapid pace of change as technology evolves faster and faster in all industries. As people view non-traditional learning in a more realistic light, and take it seriously as a way to progress in their careers and their lives, the demand for traditional education will fall even more.

Traditional higher education

While traditional colleges will never completely go away for people who want to specialize in certain fields such as medicine where hands on training is necessary and warranted, the number of traditional colleges will decline dramatically over the next 30 years leaving something almost indiscernible from what we see today.

Shift in thinking

Technology today is what agriculture was 200 years ago

Technology is everywhere and ingrained into everything. It is the driving force behind all business. The people who embrace this idea, fundamentally understand what this means, and live in this reality will thrive and have the opportunity to not only generate great wealth in their lifetimes, but possibly push humanity forward, while those who try to fight it will be left in the dust fighting over the scraps of the 20th century economy of years past they they still long for the return of.

This means taking advantage of and taking seriously the opportunities as they are and not wishing for things to be how they were in the past.

K-12 education becomes even more important

The one thing that will remain extremely important, maybe even more so than in the past, is a solid foundation for the rest of a child’s learning. This starts in K-12 education.

K-12 will remain relatively unaffected by these drastic changes, mainly because of what it offers not only to students but also to parents.

Final Thoughts

If you look closely, there has never been a time in the history of the world when more opportunities were available and accessible to more people here and around the globe.

We are truly living in a golden age, and I am extremely excited to be participating in it!

Click here to see more from the SchoolStatus blog.

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