New technologies bring requirements for new skills. The debate about artificial intelligence (AI) is full of discussion about how today’s children will be doing jobs that do not yet exist. They will need new skills that we have not yet even identified. In my own area, risk management, there is much talk about how we can improve practice by using AI, and how it will revolutionise the way that risk is managed.
But is the change really that fundamental? I think we may be overlooking the importance of basic skills in certain areas. We will, for example, still need to be able to communicate with each other. The medium may change, but the need to convey ideas and information doesn’t stop – particularly in risk management. And maths. What about maths?
I never thought I would actually say this, but I think maths’ moment in the sun has arrived. This is a real joy for those like me who spent years at university studying analysis, algebra and geometry. And while we enjoyed it, somehow there was always a doubt – perhaps driven by those recurring questions from our families and fellow students: “Studying maths? But what will you do next?” Or: “Maths? Surely you’d have to be mad to study that!” Or even: “How can you possibly like maths?”
Increasing relevance of mathematics
It wasn’t that we didn’t appreciate the beauty of mathematics or the benefits it would bring. We always knew that the ability to abstract, the mathematical way of thinking and an interest in numbers would help us in life. However, there is no doubt that successful, high-profile mathematicians are few and far between, and it was hard for mathematicians to see themselves as a social elite – until now.
Today, the digital world around us is full of data that needs analysing. Maths has become visibly more important. Analytics, the Internet of Things, machine learning and AI all depend on maths. Maths was already a fundamental skill. Now, however, enriched by knowledge about business, it has become a powerful tool in the hands of those who know how to exploit it, and particularly data scientists. Data scientists are basically people who are able to abstract and interpret business from data, using their knowledge of algorithms and technology.
Suddenly, as if by magic, maths has become cool!
But there’s no time to simply enjoy the moment. Instead, let’s brush up on our own knowledge, encourage kids to study maths as a first step to a bright future and transmit to everyone – students, young people, customers and partners – enthusiasm about maths. You heard it here first: This is the revenge of mathematics, and it’s sweet.