It is not unhelpful to assume that by the next century intelligence will escape the constraints of biology. Decisions made by algorithms, machines, and networks may lack malice aforethought but it is possible that their interests may not include us.  Everything is already taking us there. But incrementalism is insufficient. Incremental thinking isn’t enough. The Network is set; but is humanity ready?

During the pandemic portal, we witnessed the meteoric ascension of a new humanity of neural lace, machines, and interfaces. Like all the previous transitions which were propelled by coal, oil, and memory-programmable controls this changeover will be as transformative economically, socially, and politically. But, to transform attitude into action, and create an AI-enabled workforce, industrialists and bureaucrats must approach AI and its influence at the organizational level.

AI raises many near-term anxieties: privacy, bias, and unfairness. As AI systems become more authoritative and pervasive they may become superior to human performance in many fields. And while it will lead to extremely positive developments, it can also potentially pose catastrophic risks from mishaps (safety) or misuse (security). Mitigating risk and achieving the global benefits of AI will present matchless governance conundrums, and will need cross-border collaboration and cooperation. Cameron Hejazi, CEO and co-founder of the NFT marketplace “Cent”, recently highlighted a spectrum of activity including “wash trading”, “rampant fakes”, plagiarism and scams with users minting counterfeit NFTs.

NFTs are digital assets such as patches of land in virtual world environments, digital clothing, exclusive cryptocurrency wallet names, or Tweets. Sales of NFTs skyrocketed to $25B in 2021. Coca-Cola (KO.N) and Gucci are among the companies to have sold NFTs. In July 2021, OpenSea processed $350 million in NFT trades. The biggest NFT marketplace, OpenSea, is now valued at $13.3B. ‎‎‎Stephen Curry bought the Bored Ape (#7990) NFT in August 2021 for US$180,000. In March 2021, the first tweet from Jack Dorsey, known for Co-founding Twitter and Block Inc., – “just setting up my twttr” – sold for $2,915,835.47.

NFTs are exclusive, rare, tradeable, and usable across multiple applications. But unlike physical merchandise, they are fortified with all the programmability of digital possessions. The vision is that open protocols like Ethereum and interoperable standards like ERC-721 and ERC-1155 will enable vibrant new economies. New tools allow consumers to trade their items openly, creators to showcase new digital works, and developers to build rich, integrated marketplaces for NFTs.

Companies like Electric Capital announced in August 2020 the close of its $110M Seed and Series A fund, focused exclusively on cryptonetworks and blockchain-enabled businesses. To do this the company partnered with ivy league university endowments and philanthropic foundations. These institutions traditionally partner with old-style venture capital firms, not cryptonetwork and blockchain-centric firms. This new partnership allows Electric Capital to work with the world’s brightest students, and leading scientific researchers.

Governments and conglomerates have customarily relied on the idea of a university as conceived by Wilhelm von Humboldt to close talent gaps, to deliver new knowledge and capabilities to the society, and as a temple of thought leaders. Today, the idea of the university may already be in the twilight of its social function. Unless it reinvents itself quickly. Once it was the defender of truth, but now it is an institution whose decline coincides with the rise of postmodernism. No one owns the truth and everyone has the right to be heard. Muffled voices in kitchens and the faceless in fields are on TikTok. How can the university teach truth and objectivity when the relation between subject and object is in doubt?

Universities simply can no longer produce graduates with the skills to meet the demand. And with the lifespan of skills contracting precipitously, graduates’ skills are already out of date by the time students receive their diploma. Relying solely on recruiting talent is not a strategy to succeed in the Age of AI. A multi-pronged approach to closing the talent gap is needed. Governments and industries are now working with vendors across the AI ecosystem and academia to forge partnerships that embrace a mind-set of lifelong learning, continuous investment in upskilling the workforce, and augmenting existing capabilities with AI tools. Factories of the future will have a soul — a “digital twin” that blends reality and virtual reality, robotics and AI.

Workers are now benefiting from on-the-job experience that allows organizations to capitalize on emerging opportunities, and make themselves future-ready. Elevating the skills and knowledge of the entire workforce creates a bridge between existing pockets of AI expertise. As AI, analytics, digitization, and automation disrupt industries and transform businesses, they are rewriting terms and conditions, fresh job descriptions, creating new roles, and bursting open a yawning skills gap in the process.

Once bureaucracies and conglomerates assess the talents and capabilities of the existing workforce, what is required to achieve the future-state AI vision, and the curriculum and platforms best suited to deliver training, the next task is to draw up a leaning roadmap for the journey ahead. The learning path must capture the strategy to be used to upskill the workforce, complement the talent management and talent onboarding strategies, and guarantee that the organization will be able to compete and thrive in Post-Corona.