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TEDxOpenUniversity: The Future is Digital

TEDxOpenUniversity: The Future is Digital

Over the past decade, the landscape of work has experienced rapid change, largely due to advances in technology. Significant parts of our lives are played out online as much as offline, and in many contexts we’re seeing automated systems reduce the need for human input.

We have officially entered what has been dubbed ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ yet the outcomes are still relatively unknown. The psychology that exists around this topic is largely divided. While some people believe it’s only a matter of time before their jobs will be deemed obsolete, many remain optimistic.    

In the run up to TEDxOpenUniversity 2019, we heard from scientists, academics and business leaders whose work, research and ideas are embedded in this very field. We asked them to think big and ‘Imagine What’s Next’ for future generations and the world of tomorrow. 

They did exactly that. On Friday 8th November, our speakers came together and shared their expertise, research and findings with the audience. 

Here are 7 of our speakers, and this is what they had to say... 

1. Martha Lane-Fox | The digital world is having a mid-life crisis – how do we fix it?

Martha Lane-Fox is the founder of Doteveryone and Chancellor of The Open University. She spoke about the need to address the digital skills gap to ensure nobody in society is left out. 

“Right now, we are facing a mid-life crisis in technology. This, today, is the slowest moment we are going to live through. From now, everything will get faster.”

2. Philip Colligan | The next generation of digital makers 

Founder of Raspberry Pi, Philip Colligan, believes we must invest in future generations and ensure they are well-equipped to manage the digital challenges of tomorrow:

“We have a responsibility to make sure that all young people have the opportunity so that they can be part of the next generation of digital makers.”

3. John Domingue | A blockchain-based decentralised university 

OU Professor and Director of the Knowledge Media Institute, John Domingue, explored how blockchain can be transformative to teaching and learning: 

“The current challenge is to make Higher Education agile, so we can teach anywhere. What I call ‘pop-up education’ – providing high quality education to the most disadvantaged.”

4. Nicholas Braithwaite | A sensational laboratory experience 

OU Professor Nicholas Braithwaite takes people to virtual laboratories in his line of work. Having seen technology span the ages, he told us how online labs make you feel as though you’re almost there.

“Good observational experimentalists need to get out of the room. The remote labs I take my students to are more the norm than you’d think - it’s a good way to do science.” 

5. Dr. Adrian Mallory | Human-centred data for a prosperous future 

Dr. Adrian Mallory is a post-doctoral research fellow in Circular Economy. His talk looked at the future of data ownership and asked whether we really know what happens to our data.

“A better future on the internet has three main components: legislation, action and creation. We can start to build a better future for everyone and a better internet.”

6. Daniel Simms | Artificial intelligence: training my replacement

Daniel Simms is a lecturer at Cranfield University in remote sensing. He explored whether robots could really tackle the specialised tasks where we have built up years of experience. Could machines replace experts?

“With machine learning, all the data we have about the problem is fed into the machine and it learns the solution for itself. The advantage over us is speed, the machine is much faster at doing the computations and working out the answers and can also learn very quickly.”

7. Wayne Holmes | I’m not talking about robot teachers 

Lecturer in learning sciences and innovation, Wayne Holmes explored the trend affecting classrooms – the introduction of Artificial Intelligence:

“AI in education is too important to be left to the scientists and entrepreneurs. We need to engage with the educators, focusing on the learners and the learning.”

You can catch up on the comments and discussions from the day via #TEDxOpenUniversity. 

If you missed the live event ­– it’s not too late! We’ll soon be sharing the talks on the TEDx YouTube channel!

By Natalie Baker

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