The Age of STEMpathy: Thriving as Humans in an Era of Robots and Intelligent Machines.

That which cannot be found in an algorithm!

Posted by: Nicky Verd Comments: 0

From the time we are six years old, we start learning everything from grammar to spelling — reading words, writing letters, solving multiplication tables, and building upon that knowledge each year as we grow.

However, in the middle of learning and growing academically, many children miss out on perhaps one of the most important lessons of growing up — that is emotional intelligence; how to relate/interact with other human beings.

We’re told to work together but never taught how to communicate with people.

We’re told what to think and never taught how to think critically

We’re told to speak up, but not taught how to be present

We’re taught knowledge reproduction instead of knowledge creation

This leads to a society full of book-smart people who lack basic life skills. Life skills are an essential part of being able to meet the challenges of a constantly changing world.

Empathy and emotional intelligence allow you to be a more diligent employee, communicative in relationships, and also develop a healthy view of yourself.

What is Emotional Intelligence(EQ)?

Emotional intelligence is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: “The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

Empathy is what makes us aware of the feelings of others and when you’re empathic, you’re much less likely to hurt someone else’s feelings.

Being in tune with how someone else feels might also make adolescents steer clear of bullying and other behaviours of concern.

While many have mastered the art of studying, memorizing concepts and reproducing them in an exam, many of us forgot to develop into empathetic, self-aware citizens that are ready to cope with growing up and facing the real world.

What makes us uniquely human is not our academic excellence, mental superiority or technical skills.

Image: Shutterstock

Robots are our new reality — and, indeed, the source of our new economy and that’s why emotional intelligence is fundamental to our ability to distinguish ourselves and function as humans beings.

When emotional intelligence(EQ) is developed and highlighted in the classroom, we will not only be educated but empathetic, not only knowledgeable but compassionate, and not only excellent at studying but excellent at loving those around us.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Knowledge of STEM is vital in a world increasingly reliant on disruptive digital technologies.

However, without soft skills, people are essentially robots and we don’t need any more robots or intelligent machines invading our world. We need humans! And that’s where STEMpathy comes in.

What is STEMpathy?

STEMpathy is a phrase coined by Thomas Friedman and it refers to an integration of empathy, resilience, and compassion in the study of STEM subjects(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

In his book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in a World of Accelerations”, Mr Friedman embarks upon what it will take for us as a society (and indeed as humans) to successfully transition this period of extremely rapid change in technology, society and environment.

This ability to transition into the new world is something he names STEMpathy, in other words, capacity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics coupled with empathy for other human beings so as to be able to work, communicate and effectively interact with people in the workplace and life in general.

I think Mr Friedman is onto something here, the very nature of modern computing is fundamentally changing the world. We can no longer focus only on technical skills. The ideal skill set for the jobs of the future is STEMpathy.

Because emerging technologies have a profound influence on the job market and, in turn, we as humans should change the way we think, the way we interact with each other, the way we approach work and the way we educate our young people.

More than ever before, humanity needs all the attributes that can’t be downloaded or programmed into a software or found in algorithms. Attributes like compassion, kindness, empathy, character and collaborative spirit.

What will be the role of people in an age of algorithms?

Technology now guides many areas of our lives, whether through Google Maps, e-commerce websites or online dating, we’re interacting with technology more than ever before.

And in a society where STEM education is becoming increasingly more pushed starting even in primary school. We acknowledge the integral role that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math play in our daily lives.

However, the future isn’t about what we know. Nobody cares what you know, because Google knows everything. Rather, the future is about what we can do with what we know and how we relate with other human beings.

In this new era, you simply cannot create viable, scalable solutions without compassion and empathy and this speaks to the importance of soft skills, especially emotional intelligence.

Many of us spend far too much time and energy on becoming the perfect employee, perfect student, getting the right answers but fail to develop in other areas — and it shows!

With rising levels of mental health problems, we need to focus on equipping ourselves and students with resilience, empathy and tools to deal with the stressors of life. People are not robots!

Image: Shutterstock

Compassion and empathy are no longer nice-to-haves but must-haves both in and out of the professional world.

In a world where “what we know” is instantly accessible via technology, there becomes a premium on what we do with what we know. STEMpathy is about bringing humanity back into the equation to create social and economic value.

“The faster the world gets, the more everything old and slow matters — the things you can’t download.” ~Thomas Friedman

Being human in a digitally disruptive world

Today, many jobs are done through software like Salesforce. And we are beginning to see artificial intelligence and machine learning disrupting human expertise in profound ways.

We are increasingly being surrounded by digital technologies. And almost every job is a human-plus-machine role. Therefore, it is important to note that the future of work is squarely about people:

  • People’s relationships with robotics and intelligent machines.
  • People’s relationships with other people.

It is one thing to have in-demand skills but today’s economy requires soft skills like communication, teamwork, empathy, emotional intelligence, the willingness to learn new things, etc.

Essentially, being human means being able to build relationships with one another.

As mentioned in my previous article, soft skills tend to come from life experience rather than academic institutions. People with good soft skills tend to have strong situational awareness and emotional intelligence to navigate disruptive working environments as technology takes on a greater share of the work.

Organizations should realize that skills like empathy, letting go and listening are not weaknesses but skills that earn great results and builds trust-filled relationships which become personal in this so-called professional world.

Humans have thus far conquered all — and I believe we will continue to do so. So, let’s be more human and start thriving in this upside-down world together. Let’s stop waiting for the storm to pass — and just start dancing in the rain.

In fact, it is collective movements and collaborative thinking that have helped us survive so many centuries of disruptive change.

The era of working with our hands was with the industrial revolution; the age of using our heads came with the digital revolution and now, the age of using our hearts is upon us as the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses.

This is an era in which human empathy — alongside soft skills and STEM skills is paramount. An era in which soft skills and relationships, not merely money or technology — will be the measure of business, and the measure of society overall.

The ideal skill set for the jobs of the future is STEMpathy: Science, Technology, Mathematics — and Empathy. The future belongs to those who can combine, emotional intelligence, and empathy with aptitude and that’s the ultimate alpha skill.

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