13:34 PM

Masters of Change

Education is key to creating and adapting to coming changes in technology

The convergence of powerful technologies holds the promise of more fulfilling work and life for human beings, says noted cybernetics, artificial intelligence, data science and philosophy of technology expert Martin Ciupa.

“We are on the cusp of massive change. The techno-socio-economic landscape is on the precipice of a revolution,” says Ciupa, Chief Technology Officer of calvIO Inc., part of the Calvary Robotics group of companies in Webster, N.Y.

“We are moving towards what experts call the technology singularity. The acceleration of technology across many areas is gathering pace. It’s to the point that it’s not really possible for an individual to grasp everything that is going on, strategic plans are less valuable than an agile mindset.”

The technological singularity is in part influenced by the idea that the invention of Artificial Generic Intelligence (AGI), or Super-Intelligence, will continually and rapidly improve upon itself, and will eventually and abruptly trigger runaway technological advances, bringing with it unprecedented changes to civilization.

“I think it’s fair to say the pace of technology is becoming harder to manage, we need help. AGI may deliver that support, till then we need a combination of specialists and generalists in engineering technology.”

The future requires an influx of young people into sciences, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at institutions like Mohawk College, which provide foundational applied learning and research opportunities directly tied to industry needs, says Ciupa.

“Mohawk has done a wonderful job of applying itself where the rubber meets the road and using research funding to educate students, answer industrial challenges and provide well-educated talent. Companies can’t easily build the knowledge experts with the competencies they require in the time frame needed. Partnerships with Mohawk provide that capability and build longer-term talent strategies.”

Education is the key to creating and adapting – socially, economically and technologically – to a new future of automated automation, says Ciupa. 

“At its essence, engineering is about change, changing from the past to the future and changing to the right future and doing it with forethought – we need to develop ‘ChangeMasters.’”

The McKinsey Global Institute says 12 core emergent technologies – from AI to robots, from Internet of Things (IoT) to mapping human genetics, from drones to blockchain, and from 3D printing to energy storage – have the power to truly disrupt the status quo and rearrange how we learn, live and work. The institute estimates that together, applications of the 12 technologies could have a potential economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025.

The key is the convergence and collision that drives new technology. For example, Ciupa is supporting with Flaight Smart Media, a Fredericton, N.B. start-up that is using AI and drones to capture sporting events. AI can follow the action of a game, edit video and deliver virtual reality content to spectators inside the venue or outside, says Ciupa. Mohawk College is firmly focused on a future of converging technology, says David Santi, Dean of Engineering Technology.

“There are several areas of technology just in that one application. The great convergence of technology means innovation requires a mastery of many areas. There is a tapestry of technology that requires multidisciplinary awareness. Students need to learn to be agile engineers.”

Mohawk has been actively involved in the development and application of drone technology in building and construction sciences, has the only Civil Engineering Transportation Technology program in Canada designed to meet the needs of a low-carbon environment, and is a leader in energy storage.

“The new net-zero building, The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation, will have advanced engineering and space for students to learn and experience building energy management and control systems,” said Santi.

Mohawk is also a leader in education and certification in industrial collaborative robotics, 3D printing and smart system integration using sensors and predictive analytics powered by IBM Watson to improve factory performance, he said.

Disruptive and emerging technologies allow for new opportunities in applied research, creation of programs and advanced credentials and integration into existing programs, says Vice President Academic Paul Armstrong. Most certainly, inter-disciplinary learning that mirrors the real world is the new model at Mohawk.

“Disruption, innovation and the technologies facilitating new ways of working have eliminated silos and students are working in that collaborative and mutually supportive environment from the moment they set foot on our campus.” Armstrong says connecting diverse groups of students and faculty through applied research and other real-world projects is critical to Mohawk’s vision and underpins investments to The Agency – an experiential learning facility – and a new focus on student enterprise initiatives. The Joyce Centre and the creation of a completely integrated factory model at the Fennell Campus will allow industry partners to access technology and knowledge of Mohawk faculty, says Armstrong, and “build opportunities to connect students with experiences that will differentiate them from their peers in the workforce.”

“Disruption, innovation and the technologies facilitating new ways of working have eliminated silos and students are working in that collaborative and mutually supportive environment from the moment they set foot on our campus.”

Mohawk’s strength in applied research is paying off with two new bachelor degree programs: Business Analytics and the recently approved Bachelor of Digital Health, the latter the result of almost 10 years of leading-edge digital health technology work out of the MEDIC Lab.

Mohawk is also a leader in augmented and virtual reality with a new state-of-the-art learning centre accessible to all schools and industry partners. Faculty in skilled trades, building and construction, and media and entertainment are already using AR/VR in their courses, says Armstrong, building on Mohawk’s vision to be a leader in simulation learning.

“Through a virtual environment, students can enter nuclear power facilities, be inside operating rooms, develop proficiency in welding, learn how to operate large equipment and so much more. Mohawk will grow this area of expertise and, in partnership with leaders in the industry, will be well positioned to capitalize on this new and emerging strength area.”

Ciupa says the next great wave of workplace transformation will come using AI to automate some knowledge functions, like the impacts of several decades of robotics in manufacturing.

AI will partially replace knowledge work, by augmenting it by taking on routine or tedious tasks – the black and white – and leaving people to perform the creative, caring, social, higher-knowledge, shades of grey, value-driven and decision-making aspects of their jobs.

“AI Deep Learning systems suffer from a black-box problem; they learn, but you can’t ask them why they made a decision. A human doctor, for instance, can explain a decision and provide a rationale. An AI black-box system cannot do that easily.”

Ciupa says a wholesale rethinking of work and society could create a world of lifelong education or look after others and the environment with the support of new socio-economic models such as Universal Basic Income.

“There would be a more humane use of human beings. There is an infinite need for the caring vocations. Humans will always need other humans to help them.”