Book Review: The Future of the Professions (including teaching)

Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, Jan 04, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Review by Tony Bates of the book by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind which argues "increasingly capable machines, operating on their own or with non-specialist users, will take on many of the tasks that have been the historic preserve of the professions." The book takes the perspective that the professions have attained an elite status in society by virtue of a 'bargain' where they act as gatekeepers of specialized knowledge and skills. With technology the need for this bargain has decreased, however, and power and autonomy are shifting to their former clients. Bates is more supportive than I would have predicted. "Although the authors’ focus is more on law, medicine and management, many of the phenomena they report have clear equivalents in education and particularly in online learning." At the same time, he argues, education is a 'public good' in the way the other professions are not. We need change, agrees Bates, "but this needs to be done within a broader view of the effects these changes will have on society as a whole, and in particular the professional areas being changed."

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