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Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  71 reviews
How to educate the next generation of college students to invent, to create, and to discover--filling needs that even the most sophisticated robot cannot.

Driverless cars are hitting the road, powered by artificial intelligence. Robots can climb stairs, open doors, win Jeopardy, analyze stocks, work in factories, find parking spaces, advise oncologists. In the past, automat
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published August 25th 2017 by MIT Press (first published 2017)
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Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Thought provoking with a high level overview of how education needs to prepare students for the future of work replete with artificial intelligence and robots. Got me thinking and I expect it will others in higher education so maybe it served its purpose. Still, I was a little disappointed. The author seems to accept premise that the future of work is whatever CEOs at multinational large corporations tell him. With a nod to the "gig economy," author does not explore difference between gig econom ...more
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is no surprise that in recent times, people and process have been augmented, and in many places completely replaced, by robots or automation that previously required human intervention to achieve. The initial roles replaced by mechanization were those of factory workers or laborers where repetitive tasks or sets of tasks needed to be performed. Something that is often quite binary in nature is easily replaced with computerization. It is no surprise that we see machines replacing assembly line ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking read by a university president about the need of teaching divergent thinking to students and the need to overhaul curriculum in light of the rise of AI. Fascinating book.
Jj Li
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was expecting a lot from this book, given how relevant the topic is, and as a STEM grad, I'm hyper aware of exactly how I could be made obsolete by a program, because my colleagues and classmates were trying to do that every day. Plus, it garnered really high accolades from people whose opinions I respect. However, I was severely let down. For people who've been out of school for a while, and have been taught before computers became commonplace in the workplace, this may be a very useful parad ...more
Jun 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: new-sciences
Robot-Proof has a relevant scope but completely loses its way in its underappreciation of the challenge on hand.

Let's say we are moving towards a world where technology (AI, robots, IoT, etc.) makes humans less than ideal for more and more work done by them today. What would you genuinely want to teach a younger generation that is heading into an era of this kind in the coming decades?

The author looks at the problem in a staggeringly narrow fashion and suggests many decent-sounding solutions for
Alexander Rolfe
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had to read this for work, and I was hoping it would be better.

Only a university administrator could think people will have to keep returning for advanced degrees because they will need people skills. Apparently nobody was brave enough to tell the president of Northeastern that there are many people outside of college with great people skills. That's not a huge part of the book, but it's indicative of the quality of thinking that went into his new "discipline" of humanics.

What is a huge part
May 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
This would have made a good TED talk or long article, but I'm not sure it needed to be a full book for me. It was highly repetitive. There were some good suggestions though, such as how we should be lifelong learners and should train students to be lifelong learners. The book starts out pretty negative, explaining all the ways computers are going to take over our jobs, but it did get a bit better after that. ...more
Nichola Gutgold
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking book that makes me think about what is true learning for anyone. Spoiler: doing is more important than passive learning. We knew that, but the hook of the book—how to stay viable in an automated world—is well researched and presented.
Cara Putman
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look at where higher education could be headed.
Erkan Saka
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newmedia, education, sts
This is a just long essay that covers progressive attempts on higher education. It does not add anything new to the ongoing debates. I believe the title is aimed at selling more but not informative.
Ladonna Lewis
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read. Because I am a professor it applies directly to what I do, but may not be as interesting for those not directly involved in higher education. Some of the information in it can apply to the setting in which I work (community college), but much of it was more specifically aimed at the university setting. Interestingly, some of the things he talks about in terms of what universities need to do are things that many community colleges are already doing which demonstrates ...more
Erik Rostad
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
Excellent book that proposes a way forward for academia in this age of AI and machines. The author, Dr. Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University in Boston, says that creativity will be the most important skill for workers in the future. It will be what sets them apart from what machines will be programmed to do.

How does the university teach creativity? This book suggests paths forward in that regard. The suggestions are great and are mostly already being implemented at Northeastern U
Mohamad Ahmad
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Head of northweastern university is concerned about the current educational system and its relevancy in a world shifting gears at breackneck speeds, heading toward an AI economy in which machines take over all the work and graduates become useless.

The author thought about how we can make higher education adapt to an ever progressing world where graduates stay relevant and equipped with an education that fits the demands of the day.

Higher education suffers a lot of problems currently. Its struct
Arfan Ismail
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting read from Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. The core message in the book coheres with much of the literature related to artificial intelligence: AI will complement human agency, not replace it. Aoun focusses on mankind’s creative capacity to suggest that whereas manual or repetitive tasks can be done by machines, tasks requiring creativity cannot. AI can tell us where to locate a bridge for maximum efficiency, but it cannot inform of the a ...more
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Aoun has written a thought provoking book which highlights new challenges to individuals and institutions as the evolving Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies have a larger impact in the workplace. He does a nice job in laying out the challenge. If you are a worker, what kinds of skills do you need in order to continue to add value in a role that won't simply be outsourced to an algorithm? I work as a part-time lecturer at Dr. Aoun's school, Northeastern, and this book offers insights w ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Some parts of this were good, others less good. I appreciated his overview of ways in which curricula can be adapted to the future, including modern-day literacies. They were good for thinking about how to strategize my own professional development to fill in skill gaps and what changes I may need to make to support students during my interactions with them as a librarian.

It was weird to have someone go on about new skills and freeing people up to do work using various types of literacies import
Mon Thi Han
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Joseph argues for a new field called 'Humanics', which includes the study and the development of skill sets for technological literacy, data literacy and human literacy combined with system thinking, entrepreneurship and critical thinking.

In my understanding, his version of education is that of a generalist education, where students would be taught a bit of everything. He uses the dutch architect, Koen Olthuis, as an example of someone who is able to synthesize all the various ideas from differ
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
So, it's not the most entertaining book and it definitely reads like a scholarly paper run amok, but Aoun had some interesting points to make about the intersection of higher education and the advancements of technology. Technology is moving forward at such rates that an estimated 30% of all current jobs will be obsolete in the near future. Aoun argues that this is not necessarily a disaster and that there is a way to combat the advent of robots and the loss of employment. He suggests two primar ...more
a u d r e y ♥
I was asked to read this book before attending a work conference where my company was rolling out a new phase and new project to essentially "robot proof" ourselves & our students. Personally, I hated the book. Every page I was rolling my eyes and shaking my head.

The book is presented as new information while only rehashing claims and theories that have been talked about for 40 years. The author used fear to instill his ideas into the reader without presenting any solution or proposing any idea
Becky L Long
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Nice and quick read. (A bit dry, don't use to stay awake while driving.) Good overview of how to succeed in the new economy. For anyone that is scared of the self checkout or think they will be stealing all the jobs, grow up and look at the history of the human race. Technological advancement is the mark of humanity. Education, creativity and continual learning is the way to stay ahead

However, when the author started talking like universities could become agile and flip from "push" to "pull" sup
Supriyo Chaudhuri
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short book is packed with ideas about what a university in today's fast changing, automation driven world should look like. I agree with much of these - therefore the 4 stars - though I don't necessarily agree with its central assumption - that there is only one possible future! I do think this book, following the literature it relies upon, overstates the AI capability at this present moment (Bill Gates, in a recent interview, said we are possibly two or three technological breakthroughs aw ...more
David Chabot
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was eager to read that book to be honest, as it stood near the top of my ''to read'' pile. However, it left me lukewarm at best. Sure, a few interesting ideas are presented, but mostly in a superficial, ''here's an idea that's worth considering'' style. I would have liked a lot more real life examples and more in depth analysis of the technological disruption we're going through now.

In fact, the only worthy example given is more or less an infomercial for Northwestern university, which the au
Ruminations on how higher education can change to accommodate the rise of automation and AI by emphasizing lifelong learning, practicums, cultural breadth, communication, creativity, and other traits and skills that will enable students to stay relevant, employable, and engaged. Filled with historical context, anecdotes, and examples. Not particularly ponderous, and shows a passion for transforming US higher ed into something more adaptable and holistic than it currently is. Longer than it neede ...more
Mary Ellen
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
President of Northwestern and former MIT linguist Joseph Aoun makes the case for radical changes to higher education and a pathway Northwestern is already taken with aggressive experimental learning. He outlines technological, data, and human literacies and new cognitive capacities, critical thinking, systems thinking, and entrepreneurship as critical for new models of learning. I found his argumentation compelling but believe defining and developing human literacy to be the most difficult to ac ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Know what's gonna if we don't read this book!? This is what's gonna happen...

"In three years, Cyberdyne will become the largest supplier of military computer systems. All stealth bombers are upgraded with Cyberdyne computers, becoming fully unmanned. Afterwards, they fly with a perfect operational record. The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes online August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware
Apr 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Thought provoking. Perhaps too optimistic about both the future of technology and the power of education by assuming that all students pursue higher education and have opportunities to pursue what Aoun calls "new literacies" - data literacy, technological literacy and human literacy. Would benefit greatly from an introduction by a computer scientist who also studies education to engage the thinking going on within technology disciplines. Still, worth a thoughtful read. ...more
Matt S
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: business-books
I have a lot to say about this book. There are whole swaths I agree with, much that I do not. I think the most difficult part of this book is being familiar with Northeastern and reading the praise and structure the authors confers it and knowing that much is unfounded. I find much is a 'do as I say, not as I do," set of suggestions which are systemic in higher education. This review is to be continued as I intend to give it more thought and structure in the future. ...more
Samer Chidiac
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Preparing the Future Generations for the Future

A topic everyone is talking about these days, The upcoming age of Artificial Intelligence and Robots and what will happen before and when this will happen; Dr. Joseph Aoun approaches this subject from a different angle, from the angle of education, learning, and culture.

Robot-Proof, is an easy read to a relatively complicated topic with a clear message and practical resources to anyone involved in education in general.

Highly Recommended!
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were some interesting and useful observations about both where we are with tech, Ed, and society; there were some interesting ideas for ways to address it. Then there was a lot of historical and narrative context that was covered, then re-covered, then covered again. Several ideas and arguments felt imaginative but not particularly deeply explored. Though arguing against the “if you build it, they will come” approach in higher ed, many solutions assumed that similar behavior.
Michael Munshaw
Jun 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Providing a good overview of how jobs have changed and the role that universities can serve the public in ensuring that a workers skills remain relevant. Northeastern, unsurprisingly, received a fair bit of attention and it read a little sales-y to me. As a college counsellor, I am interested in how universities are responding to our changing circumstances so the content was interesting to me - I wonder how interesting it would be to most others.
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Joseph E. Aoun, a leader in higher education policy and an internationally renowned scholar in linguistics, is the seventh President of Northeastern University. A respected voice on global and experiential education, President Aoun came to Northeastern from the University of Southern California’s College of Letters, Arts & Sciences where he was the inaugural holder of the Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair ...more

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