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

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  52 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,
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 ...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
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.
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: education, newmedia, 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.
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-issues
Amidst the doomsday writing about artificial intelligence and robots replacing knowledge workers, eliminating the middle class, and rendering human work obsolete, "Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" provides a breath of fresh air. He confronts the accelerating disruption of the knowledge economy with a bracing call for reforming college education to educate students so they will be able to succeed in the new world of AI. Instead of traditional academic majors, ...more
M 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
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
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 ...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
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
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 ...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
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 ...more
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.
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!
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.
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.
Sarah Mortensen
I learned so far that it's important to educate students to be creative, flexible and lifelong learners if they are to compete in the growing technical economy of the future. So, what does that look like for me as an educator? Hiw can I teach creativity and train students to be flexible and lifelong learners?
Ryan Korstange
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The first 1/2 of the book (maybe a little less) lays out an innovative and appealing direction for Higher Education that pre-emptively responds to changes which happen in the labor force as a result of increasing AI. The second half of the book continues to extrapolate and explain this forward-looking plan, but as a result gets a bit repetitive.
Jim Elyot
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
But for what at times seems a plug for his university-Northeastern, this book gave me hope. Unlike other dire futurists, Aoun defines what separates us from the machines that could, no will do our jobs. We cannot change that. But Robot-Proof offers a challenge to educators everywhere, that could help us find better ones.
Calvary Dominique
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book had a lot of good ideas, and I think these issues are ones we need to talk about (that's why it's so refreshing that Andrew Yang is doing so!). I'm glad to go to a college that recognizes this. This book wasn't absolutely HORRIBLE to read. BUT I think this would have been better as a TED Talk. It was super boring to get through, overall.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for anyone who works in higher education

This was one of the most interesting, readable, and thoughtful works I’ve encountered on this important topic. The author describes the problems and provides potential solutions clearly and articulately.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful consideration of what makes humans unique, despite the advance of technology, and how higher education can nurture those capabilities that will ensure employment for current and future generations.
May 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Using fear to prevent reason in order to sell something. In this case how can a rigid 17th century system of education can help you against 21st century technology. And yes, it can happen because the academic bureaucrats have a trump up their sleeve: governmental regulations.
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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 ...more
“computers will continue to grow more sophisticated cognitive capacities such as critical thinking, systems thinking, and even cultural agility. But they will lack the very human lens from which we view life, learning to interpret contexts to assess, act, and make sound decisions. Human beings possess this lens because we learn from experience.” 0 likes
“It gives them the chance to improvise in contexts they never have encountered before, interacting, inventing, and thinking on their feet. When human learners are immersed in the incalculable variety of experience, they escape the strictures of predetermined input—which computers cannot do. They break free of their programming, and they upgrade their minds.” 0 likes
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