WATCH enough old sci-fi movies, and one thing soon becomes clear: humans aren’t that great at predicting what technology will look like in the future.
Take the 1982 classic Blade Runner, which is set in an imaginary 2019 filled with synthetic humans, flying cars and interstellar colonies. While some of its tech predictions are close to coming true (we do have intelligent robots now, though thankfully we can still spot them pretty easily), most telling is not what’s in the movie, but what it missed – meaning there’s not a smartphone or wifi hotspot in sight.
The lesson? In an era of unprecedented technological growth and change, the biggest impacts to our daily lives are likely to be the ones we couldn’t have imagined just a few decades ago. Which raises a key question for our next generation of workers: how do you prepare for a digital future that’s changing right in front of you?
Professor Lorelle Frazer, who is Dean of USC’s Business School, says the answer requires a focus on the core skills that drive the digital information age – things like complex problem solving, creativity, strategic thinking, and entrepreneurship.
These foundational skills are at the heart of a range of new USC degrees designed to prepare students for a digital economy that appears to be travelling at warp speed.
In the Bachelor of Business (Digital Futures), students will explore emerging business trends like strategic social media, new financing models and venture creation, with a focus on the opportunities for digital transformation in Australia’s small-to-medium business sector.
And amidst growing concern around the impacts of artificial intelligence and automation, new degrees in Computer Science and Mechatronic Engineering are designed teach students the deeper 'how and why' of technology. In short, forget about robots or computers coming to take your job – instead, make it your job to design, build and improve the robots and automated systems of the future.
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Professor Frazer says that across all degrees, the focus is on helping students develop what futurist Alvin Toffler referred to as the literacy of the future – the ability to adapt skills and knowledge to suit a changing world, and to constantly “learn, unlearn and re-learn” again.
“In an increasingly digital world, new and emerging technologies will continue to revolutionise the way we do business,” Professor Frazer says.
“The landscape changes rapidly, to the extent that some of our most dominant technologies – things like the iPhone, Uber and the streaming side of the Netflix business model – have only been around for a little over a decade.
“This makes it difficult to know exactly what the global marketplace will look like in another 20 or 30 years, or which products and platforms we’ll be using to take part in it.
“But what we do know are the fundamental skills and strategies that underpin digital growth, and how we can use these to harness opportunities and help drive innovation into the future.”