Machines are quickly learning to do what we do. That means we have to learn to do other things.
The fish were dying, and nobody knew why.
Along the creeks running into Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington, coho salmon were dying in record numbers. For years, scientists studied the problem, theorizing that the kills were related to temperature, disease, or a metal introduced into the water. These variables all proved to be, well, dead ends. It wasn’t until one factor came into focus that the research team began to make progress toward a solution.
The fish were dying after rainstorms.
Because the affected streams ran alongside roadways, the team considered a new hypothesis: there was something on or in the roadway that washed into the streams during the rainstorm. To test that, the research team exposed captive fish to chemicals they created that they knew to be in roadway runoff.
It was only after the team exposed test fish to actual roadway runoff that they died. By isolating and analyzing the chemicals in the road runoff, members of the team discovered that some of the chemicals were related to tire particles.
They then painstakingly isolated and analyzed more than 2000 chemicals narrowly associated with just the tire particles. Eventually, they isolated one, 6PPD. 6PPD is added to tire rubber to counter the effects of ozone, which accelerates tire deterioration. As it mixes chemically with ozone, 6PPD forms the previously unidentified compound 6PPD-quinone. And 6PPD-quinone turns out to be highly toxic to fish.
Mystery solved. A large collaborative team of twenty-eight scientists representing nine different institutions submitted their findings in an article to the journal Science.
And that brings us to this week’s podcast and guest, Professor Edward E. Hess, or as he prefers to be called, “Ed.” Ed is a Faculty Fellow at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia and the author of Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change.
What makes this book unique to books on change is that it’s not about the mechanics of change. It’s about the impact and implications on us of a quickly evolving technologically sophisticated world. This is a book about us: how we quickly need to learn to do things that machines can’t do – or else.
Our differentiator, going forward is not going to be the technology because the technology is going to be ubiquitous. The difference is going to be the quality of our human performance.
And a big part of that performance will be how well we prepare ourselves to work with others. Success at work will be about how well we work in teams, our relationships with others — and like the large research team that solved the salmon die-off — our ability to collaborate to solve complex problems.
The implications to educators and students literally at every grade level could not be more profound. What our students learn and how they learn it has to change — quickly.
We know you have to decide among thousands of bits of content clamoring for your attention. If you choose Ed’s insights on the pace and implications of change, thank you. When you listen to the episode, just be sure to buckle up.