The evolution of technology directly impacts the way we connect, communicate, collaborate and learn. We channel information back and forth through bits and bytes at rapid speeds, but do we stop and think about how our relationship with that information is evolving?

A group of researchers and practitioners is doing just that. The Information 4.0 Consortium is focused on exploring the impact of artificial intelligence agents on future decision-making and the cognitive and ethical adaptability we need in order to function in that future. Two questions come to mind: Where does the training function fit in the world of Information 4.0, and what do we need to know in order to survive in (or shape) this future?

Artificial Intelligence Agents

Artificial intelligence agents are being seamlessly integrated into our lives. These agents are capable of taking information and making decisions about how to act based on experience. In other words, they are able to make decisions and take action on things that normally would require input from a human being.

In the learning landscape, artificial intelligence is being used to personalize learning and to anticipate the future needs of our learners. Examples range from simple links that appear at the end of a YouTube video suggesting related content, to chatbots seamlessly integrated into our workday applications, to highly personalized learning experiences (most notably within our learning management systems).

In an InfoWorld article, writer and consultant Larry Alton clearly explains the possibilities of leveraging artificial intelligence in the training of the future: “The next step for A.I. in training programs is going to be developing smarter, more intuitive interfaces that employees can use to more effectively engage with each program. This may include human-like conversations and engagements, or simply smarter UI for on-screen interactions. In any case, this area may also be capable of recursive self-improvement, so the potential is practically infinite.”

Infinite potential? Stop and think about that for a moment. How does that influence your relationship with the evolution of technology?

As designers, developers, facilitators and managers in the training industry, we need to carefully consider our relationship with these agents of the future, and we need to become more involved in the conversations driving the development of artificial intelligence agents. Otherwise, the decisions being made may not be what we want for our learners.

Technology Adaptability

Technology adaptability is defined as the ability to master a new technology and to deal with issues and challenges that may arise from that use (with grace and dignity). As technology evolves rapidly around us, we (as a culture) have come to cherish and promote adaptability. Employers are looking for candidates who do more than simply embrace technology; they want employees who can adapt, and adapt quickly.

Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, put it best in a Forbes article: “It’s not enough to know about new technological capabilities. Today’s leaders need to be obsessed with finding the absolute best technology to keep their customers happy and engaged. They need to be constantly considering how to answer customer demands before they even ask. They need to be hungry for change — not afraid of it.”

For decades, we have been designing learning solutions targeted at anticipating and answering learners’ questions before they even ask. Does that make us the pioneers of adaptability? Have we been hungry for change or afraid of it?

How can we foster adaptability when our technologies start having a mind of their own? What happens when our artificial intelligence learning agents start making decisions for our learners without us? We need to step beyond technology adaptability and start thinking about the cognitive and ethical adaptability that Information 4.0 seeks to address.

Evolving our Relationship With Information 4.0

I have asked quite a few questions here – questions that I do not have the answers to. My aim is to open up the conversation and encourage you to explore the world of Information 4.0. Perhaps together, we can adapt more easily to the impact of artificial intelligence agents in the learning and development space and better define our relationships with the technologies of the future.