The post-COVID future is going to be about imagination and creativity, and about the ideas we generate that machines cannot. As manufacturing, service, and IT jobs are changed or displaced by Artificial Intelligence, our society will evolve from an information economy to an imagination economy." Said Dr. Jay Bernhardt, Dean of the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, as part of the keynote address at the 7th International Communication Management Conference (ICMC) at MICA, Ahmedabad.
In his keynote address, Dr. Bernhardt shared his insights on the revolutions and challenges that the year 2020 brought, what future will emerge post-COVID and AI-driven world, critical aspects of the imagination economy and how we prepare students and workforce for the future.
The conference began on a promising note with over 400 attendees. Dr. Shailendra Raj Mehta, President & Director, MICA, said, "This three-day conference will enable us to understand some of the turbulence that we are now seeing developed throughout the world. The age of automation is here. Mindless jobs that require very little thinking will be automated. So it is evident - what will remain will involve a huge element of creativity, aesthetics, and innovation."
Dr. Preeti Shroff, Dean, MICA, said, "This year's theme represents MICAs mind, heart, and soul. We talk about intersections but designing intersections is the hardest part. I am delighted that ICMC will bring experts from different fields and help us understand how we continue to connect creativity, culture, and management in the post- COVID world."
Addressing the conference participants, Dr. Bernhardt said, "The year 2020 brought three revolutions: Work-from-home revolution, learn-from-home revolution, and shop-from- home revolution. However, it also accelerated new challenges like privacy and data access and an era of mis-and-disinformation. What we do not know is whether the technology and innovation glass is half-full, half-empty, or half-filled with poison?"
While AI and Automation will change everything, it still cannot do everything. Reading out Einstein's quote - 'Imagination is more important than knowledge,' Dr. Bernhardt said, "Our ability to think outside the box is uniquely human, and it cannot be programmed into a robot or machine learning experience. That gives us all hope."
Detailing what imagination economy would consist of, Dr. Bernhardt said, "Humans will focus on what we still do better than AI, and that is imagination, innovation, creativity, art, emotion, and relationships. New industries will crop up around these issues. Content creators will leverage ever-increasing distribution options for sharing stories and products with users. Artists, storytellers and influencers will be the agents of social change.
There will be a shift from large passive screen viewing to active small screen engagement and immersive, participatory experiences that include augmented, virtual, and mixed reality headsets and wearable devices. Authenticity, transparency, listening, and engagement will become fundamental for content creators and influencers. We will also see many new business models to monetize ideas, innovations, and content", he said.
Shedding light on the other side of the imagination economy, he said, "Imagination economy will also increase fragmentation of the audience by politics, generations, and demographics. We will have more increased data monitoring and commoditization along with constant noise everywhere and an era of misinformation."
Hence, it becomes crucial to prepare our students and workforces with skills like critical thinking and problem solving, resilience and perseverance, and the most important of all, create a mentality for entrepreneurship to create jobs. Interdisciplinary collaboration and people skills will be of the utmost importance," he said.
He concluded his address and said, "In 2020, the world faced its biggest challenges in 100 years, but we are at the end of the tunnel and approaching the other side. While digital technology, big data, and AI will disrupt everything, it can be leveraged for good. Imagination, storytelling, and creativity can bring us together, give life meaning, improve society while generating revenue for content creators."
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