The Re Skill Trap and the pumping balloon.

Stephen Hawking, recently said;

“We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing…”

AI or Artificial Intelligence is said to loom as a threat on human’s race with a million articles on the impact of automation.

Debate over debate seems to rage on which job skills would be redundant.

Recently in the US, McDonalds has replaced some 2500 of its cashiers with automated touch screen kiosks. Elsewhere in India, 43 McDonalds restaurants are closing with estimated job loss of 1700 people.

An interesting tweeter observed that if your job is making and receiving emails and creating ppt/pdf etc, your job will probably be automated.

Elsewhere, the corporate money machines are gamifying the process of entry level jobs, by challenging their candidates to play a brain game to collect as much money as possible by pumping a digital balloon.

Reading a paragraph of the 1940s book ” The Future in Education” by Sir LivingStone, one ascertains that the norm of schooling after 14 yrs of age, was established just last century.

The rationale given that “it is the time when parents are most capable of earning money and children least capable of it.” It is also said to be “the best time for learning new languages, memorizing facts and even enjoying what to an adult is drudgery..”

Adult education on other hand was suggested to be given “to students who desire it, have the mental capacity to receive it and experience of life necessary to value and interpret it”.

Even after 70 yrs of educating and receiving education, most of us realize the rewards not corresponding to the time and effort gone into years of slogging.

He himself noted ” I doubt if any candid person, who has been a teacher or pupil in a secondary school, feels the returns correspond to the labour, time & money spent.”

So what do we do?

We go about to re-skill ourselves. The same employment machinery that requires “credentials” for “qualifying” to certain positions, now realizes that the last 17-18 yrs of the education machinery are mostly a wasted effort. New skills are needed to be “employable”.

We do what now?

We put in those extra hours to learn about something afresh.

And then?

A new technology and we spent the extra hours re-skilling ourselves?

And?

Some one creates a startup and endeavors to become a job creator rather than a seeker.

For the rest, the circle goes on, till their job is eventually automated.

 

 

 

 

The Father of Indian Design Education

” You must visit City Centre in Calcutta” said Prof. Nadkarni.

After a few months he asked if I had visited city center yet.

Not much of a shopper, buying even the vegetables online, traveling 40 minutes away from home to a shopping mall was not enticing for me for the first year of living in Calcutta.

Last week, I received a message from Prof about a book that had been published,

The Design Journey of Prof. Sudhakar Nadkarni“.

One could feel his excitement as a little kid for candy. But, then, he is always like that. His infectious enthusiasm and humorous wit transforms any issue.

The next week, we did indeed visit City Centre at Salt Lake.

Designed by late Architect Charles Correa, and signage designed by Prof Nadkarni, it was everything you expect from a mall, but seldom get. The architecture lines were square and minimal. The entire mall followed an atypical pattern allowing exploration and movement. Even the friday food carnival stalls were designed with the environmental feel. A tram and horse, along with tram lines, added the touch of Calcutta’s history, placed in the “kund”.

You’ll find pictures of City Centre in this link, but below are some memorable pictures with Prof. Nadkarni.

 

 

 

How we “Make in India”

Nothing Happens unless something Moves.

Albert Einstein.

Last autumn, I got the opportunity to take a “Makers” workshop for a bunch of management students. They considered it as “craft” exercise. The aspect of making was new to some of them.

We started with the material most familiar to them and many people across the world and that is Paper.

For the next Makers Workshop we introduced Plastic and this time the group was clearer with their understanding of how to use a material

The next trimester, we introduced a Hackathon competition and the brief was to use basic material such as ice cream sticks and rubber bands to create something that demonstrates the conversion of potential energy into movement.

mit_nasik_02

Our group of students was now prepared as they tackled this subject in a limited time within our “Makers Space”. The selected few from these got the chance to explore innovation in a multidisciplinary group at an MIT event at Nasik.

mit_nasik_01

Design. Lost in translation?

A few days back I visited a blog which had the conscious effort of being “made”. While the intent of the developer was clear, which was to create a design community, one particular fastidious designer had commented below why the blog wasn’t serving its purpose. While the creator of the blog was positive in taking the criticism, I’m sure too many of such comments would not have served as discouragement and criticism. By the way, this blog was Indian and that context is important.

In India, there are many factions of design community.

There are those who practice pure “design”, which means everything that is done, should be evaluated on basis of some ten point agenda that they seem to have worked out in tandem. They live by their rule and methodology; creating something that only this community can understand. It has absolutely no relation with the general mass understanding of design, if there may even be so, in India. I’d had once “shamelessly” called it the “Bauhaus” effect, which somehow felt offensive to the professor who was preaching design to our group. I couldn’t help it. Circle, triangle and simplifications of that nature, are rather alien to the evolved Indian sensibilities. We left using such symbols in the 3000 BC. Identification: they are still arguing “form vs function” debates in classrooms.

The Aesthetic or trend keepers

“It has to be Art deco”, screamed the designer, “That is the trend.”

This designer would read the latest trend reports on twitter through a built in trend identifying sensor, attend the important colour (international) conferences and maybe sleep with a few pantone colour chips under the pillow. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but it would be close to that. This faction of designers (In India) would embrace the international trends (and classics) and try to vigorously add doses of the same into the Indian market. Whether the “little black dress” has any relevance in Indian society would be lost in the translation to rapidly imitate the sensibility of foreign glossies. (I’ve been guilty of this for years too!)

The Realists

Then there is the group of realists or pragmatics. Their only agenda is cost control. Would it be cheaper to produce if the ornamentation would be done away with? Or would it be cheaper to produce if the ornamentation was there? Would it be cheaper to product if we employed a designer? Or would it be cheaper if we did away with the design process? You get what I mean…?

The Eco warrior

Eco warriors represent that class of Indian designers who have been molded to think that to design anything non biodegradable is a waste of their time on earth. Most of us are eco sensitive, but the difference is the manner in which anything that is created is deliberated as being threat to nature. This is a section, we could actually do with some more . Identification: They are generally dressed in khadi from FabIndia and paper is their favorite medium.

The Businessman-Marketeer

Here is the faction which has captivated their audience by offering “design” through a big marketing trick. Just like the over used word “innovation”, they would use “design” or “designer” as a differentiator, non-withstanding the fact that they hardly employ a design sensibility nor a designer, or their pure design methodology that the purists were so proud of.They use the term “design” or “innovation” without understanding or believing in it because it brings good business. Identification: Glossy misleading advertisements claiming design, not corroborating with the product in hand. Widespread.

Next time you buy or use something, try to evaluate what could the designer have in the mind.Then, maybe you can decide if the product you are using has been designed well or it is echoing any of the thoughts above. Maybe some, maybe all. What about the product, which just sits there silently, helping you about without making “statements”? Maybe that is the ultimately made product and kudos to its designer.

On being a World Teaching Assistant

The Wanderer

Design Logo

Recently I got associated with a new title. It’s called a CTA or a Community Teaching Assistant.

According to Kate, our TA manager at Coursera, an online platform providing massively open online learning or MOOCs,” From October-December 2013, Bhawna volunteered as a Community TA (CTA) for the Coursera online course “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society.” This course emphasizes basic design processes, and includes design challenges that require students to apply course concepts to solve real problems. As an open online offering, it attracted thousands of student participants from all over the world. “

What do CTAs do? Well, we are teaching volunteers who according to Coursera website “have done exceptionally well on the last run of the course and have been invited back to help with the course.” Our duties include forum moderation and solving student queries regarding the subject and highlighting any issues that may arise to the…

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My first Interaction with Nokia Research

The Wanderer

The news of the Microsoft and Nokia deal has been all over since yesterday amid skepticism and perhaps even criticism. Odds seem heavily stacked against the prospect.  Nokia which had been the market leader in cellphones in India for many years, had recently been replaced by Samsung on the top spot. But inspite of that, Nokia still has one of the best brand recall in the country upto the interiors of India.

Some years back, when Nokia was still placed as the global leader in cellphone space, I had the good fortune of meeting researchers from their labs. As I was then heading the Accessories department in Delhi NIFT, my immediate thought was to get our students learning fashion accessories to be involved  a short project that NOKIA labs was then conducting in India. So while the rest of NIFT was on summer vacation, a group of our…

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