Asia School of Business

Edit Content

AI is a Career Disruptor, but Mastering it is the Only Way to Beat the Threat, Says Asia School of Business CEO

ChatGPT is a real threat as a career disruptor and people must figure out how you can master GPT—or any other AI program—and use it as a tool rather than run from it, said Sanjay Sarma, CEO and president, Asia School of Business, Kuala Lumpur. Sarma, also the former vice-president for open learning at MIT, said learning is the new oxygen for the economy and companies need to give learning benefits to recruit good people.

“This is the age of agile continuous education, and the onus is on the individual to keep learning. The transcript does not end when you graduate. If you are not logging on and taking courses, you are logging out of your career,” Sarma said. Edited excerpts from an interaction with ET’s Saumya Bhattacharya Tested:

How are companies adjusting to the new shift in learning?

Companies need to give learning benefits to recruit good people. Employees must reskill and upskill. So, there is a lot of appetite for learning. The challenge is that there is loyalty to the old regime of degrees. Advanced companies are making the jump while traditional companies are still focused on the degree.I do believe in degrees. They give you foundation.

But the way it will happen is that credentials and skills will not replace degrees; they will complement them. As the change begins to happen at some companies, others will follow suit as they risk a paucity of talent. We need to start teaching students how to learn as much as what to learn. We do not tell people how to be chief learning officers of their lives.

How do you view rote learning in this context?

I will not dismiss rote learning completely. A little bit of memorisation is good. Consider multiplication tables—they help in our reasoning. We have created robots and are wondering why robots are taking our jobs from us. We must build creative thinkers.

The future belongs to the humanities: reasoning, logic, questioning, and thinking out of the box. We do not do enough of that. We teach what we can test but not what is needed. Memorisation is easy.

Is ChatGPT a career disruptor? What is your advice to the new generation entering the workforce?

It is a real threat. You have to figure out how you can master GPT—or any other AI program—and use it as a tool rather than run from it. How can you use it to make yourself superhuman, rather than wringing your hands? This is not the first time we have encountered something transformative.

Plato complained about writing—a new technology—arguing that it eroded the need for memory, which in his view was an essential component of the intellect. Yet many would argue that writing, when used as a tool, is the highest form of thinking. My advice is to figure out how to use it to your advantage.

Asia School of Business has just designed its MBA as a one-year programme instead of two. Why?

The opportunity cost of spending two years away from the workplace is too high in the context of digital disruption and advancements in the field of technology, especially artificial intelligence. I feel that the two-year MBA will survive in a few places like MIT. Hanging out in a candy store has its benefits. But in most places, it will go one year.

What factors will be the catalysts for life-long learning for working professionals?

Curiosity. The science is simple. Curiosity generates dopamine and facilitates learning. One has to be hungry to learn, and this is an acquired taste (and skill). Curiosity channelled towards becoming better at one’s job can help us outrun the technologies that are nipping at humans’ heels.