Creativity will save us from the robots, QUT professor predicts

The creative industries will have a resurgence in the age of of programmatic and the increasing role of digital in communications, a leading academic has predicted.

Stuart CunninghamProfessor Stuart Cunningham of the Queensland University of Technology said the value of an Arts degree was increasing as robots and automation looked set to kill a host of careers with foundations in the digital space.

Cunningham predicts that workers in the future will have to have a working knowledge of digital and understand what is happening “under the hood’, but as robots assumed roles traditionally held by humans, the opportunities would grow for creative pursuits to become more crucial.

“We have to get beyond this idea that robots are going to steal all our jobs,” Cunningham told Mumbrella. “That just induces a sort of apocalyptic fear in everyone.

“Yes, the jobs of the future will require a better understanding of what algorithms can do for us in analysing data and using it for decision making. You need that kind of digital literacy but that doesn’t mean you need to have a Phd in science to do it.

“It’s true that everyone needs a much deeper understanding of coding, of algorithms, of data analytics, because that’s how decisions are being made and will be made.”

He said that where jobs were being lost to automation, opportunities were arising in the arts and other creative disciplines.

“Employment in creative industries has been growing much faster than the Australian economy as a whole,” he said.

“At this stage the total creative workforce amounts to more than 600,000 people, with industry growth driven by the digital revolution and demand for digital and design services across the whole economy.”

QUT has tried to mirror the shift in importance of creative roles, bringing design and architecture out of the science and engineering department and into the creative industries faculty.

“The creativity question and the critical thinking question just shows how strong those non-technical skills (are) that are going to be essential for all jobs,” he said.

“It’s more than just about creative industries being robot-proofing. (Creative) is a significant sector of the economy and its growing.”

He said as some people voiced concerns that creative roles and arts degrees were losing their importance, the other side of the story needed to be told.

“People need to be sold a story that’s not just about technical skills. They need technical skills but they need all the other skills – the critical thinking, the ability to work in teams, the ability to deal with very very different knowledge sets. People need to be sold a much more holistic story.”


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