Preparing the Next Generation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

July 2018
Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Education and Training (General)
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already begun, but the U.S. faces a workforce shortfall of 250,000 data scientists. MITRE and leading technology companies are creating "Generation AI Nexus" to give students access to AI training, tools, and big data.
Digital brain concept

Ready or not, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is already underway.

In contrast to the First Industrial Revolution, which was powered by steam, the Fourth—which fuses the physical, digital, and biological worlds—will be fueled by big data and artificial intelligence (AI).

There is ample evidence it has already begun, as is apparent to anyone who does a Google search, uses voice or facial recognition devices, or drives a car with near-autonomous safety controls. While some, like Tesla's Elon Musk, have warned of the risks of AI, others see fundamental and positive changes ahead in security, healthcare, productivity, and more.

Either way, most agree that the explosive growth of AI is inevitable. The Fourth Industrial Age will burn through massive amounts of data, with potentially hundreds of thousands of analysts employing AI tools to make sense of it all. However, as MITRE senior vice president Rich Byrne discussed at a panel during the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA's) GEOINT Symposium in April 2018, there's a big workforce challenge.

"In the past industrial revolutions, America led with technological advances and retrained the workforce and became a dominant power," he said. "But while the U.S. should be making technical advances in AI and leading workforce reengineering of people skills, there's a lot more competition now. And we're not going to succeed just based upon our past merits."

According to McKinsey & Company, there will be a shortfall of up to 250,000 data scientists in the U.S. in a decade. Byrne says that’s particularly troubling given how heavily China and other countries are investing in AI expertise. And even more ominously, Russian President Vladimir Putin says that "the nation that leads in AI 'will be the ruler of the world.'"

Like other industrial revolutions, the Fourth will likely disrupt the U.S. workforce, particularly those with lower-skilled jobs. But one thing is clear: there are ample opportunities to those with AI expertise. Already, the shortage of AI analysts is quite apparent, with some PhDs earning $300,000-plus and experienced teachers being recruited from academia for more lucrative pay.

MITRE and Partners to Reach out to Students with Generation AI Nexus

Byrne offered an idea for strengthening America’s AI skills by reaching out to university and high school students. He called them “Generation AI”—the generation that grew up knowing that the answer to most questions was a Google search away, that GPS made paper maps obsolete, and that Alexa was always listening. Yet, all too many members of this generation are also shying away from science, technology, engineering, and math careers.

"From school age through college, and into public service and work, we should give them the AI tools to reinvent themselves—so they can be the data analytics, machine-learning leaders of the world."

As a company focused on solving problems for a safer world, MITRE is in a natural position to organize and align the needs and resources of U.S. academic, industry, and government stakeholders. Byrne explained that MITRE will develop a secure automated analytic framework through Symphony™, complete with artificial and machine-learning tools.

But Byrne points out that success "will require the whole community. Those stakeholders will have plenty of heavy lifting to do to make this work. For example, academia—by integrating Generation AI Nexus into their curriculums. Industry—by supplying seed money and cloud resources. And the government—by providing data around crucial public service needs."

Ambitious Goals for Standing up Generation AI Nexus

Byrne has charged Jay Crossler, MITRE's chief engineer for Learning Systems, and Michael Balazs, technology integrator, with standing up Generation AI Nexus. To achieve the initiative’s ambitious goals, MITRE has already reached out to leading commercial internet companies and computer manufacturers about seeding the project with startup funds and providing free cloud computing time for students.

Securing those agreements is a major step in itself, but beyond that, Crossler and Balazs outlined the following plan:

  • Opening up MITRE's Hackathons online. This is a quick way to begin reaching out to U.S. students. Traditionally MITRE's hackathons have been on site. By working with partners that can donate the computing time, MITRE can offer students access to real data via Symphony through agreements with our sponsors. "We’ll pose tough questions around cyber, health, and national security as challenges for students," says Crossler. "For instance, 'Who can develop the best algorithm to find indicators of colon cancer in the next month?'"
  • Work with MITRE's close academic partners to integrate Generation AI Nexus into the classroom. "To begin, we'll work with those schools that are leading in AI and data science areas," Balazs says. "But we think it also has tremendous potential for those in hard sciences as well, such as biomedical engineering, physics, chemistry, and more." He says that initially, they will start at the graduate level, then work down to undergraduate school and eventually to high school.
  • Professors and students doing their own research. Crossler and Balazs envision the phase when students and professors apply the AI tools and data to their own projects. "While we may offer prizes for challenges, it will be even more exciting when they develop and research topics of their own," Balazs says.

A Preliminary Timeline

According to Byrne, the target is to ultimately reach more than one million U.S. students through Generation AI Nexus, with the following preliminary timeline:

  • Online hackathons by fall/winter 2018
  • Four universities will receive Symphony for free in summer 2019 and work Symphony into their curricula
  • 40 universities planned for 2020
  • 400 universities planned for 2024
  • Following that, Generation AI Nexus will reach out to high school and grade school students

The Right Time to Launch Generation AI Nexus

Ultimately, Balazs hopes to see every person entering the workforce with hands-on exposure to the transformational power of AI through Generation AI Nexus, just as the "Hour of Code" aims to do for programming.

And while there's every evidence that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is already underway, it's also clear we are in the early days. Crossler points out that this is a good time to be starting Generation AI Nexus. "We're beginning the conversations with the different stakeholders now—and they're excited. They see the potential just like we do.

"I think once we model Generation AI Nexus in a few universities, it will grow exponentially—right along with the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

To learn more about the technology powering Generation AI Nexus, go to Symphony or contact

—by Bill Eidson


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