A New World, Changing Professions – But What About the Educational Continuum?

If, within a decade or two, we will merge with machines on our way to eternal life, and if ChatGPT is already summarizing articles for us, academic institutions and schools must also change. Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Afeka — The Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv: “It’s not a question of if, but of when, and it begins by defining the figure of the ideal alumnus, and continues by realizing the educational process for achieving that figure.”

Afeka College



A sea change is happening out there. Technological progress has never stood still, but never has its pace been so rapid. This is evident in every development: artificial intelligence, robotics, communications, computing, data storage, transportation, energy, DNA and brain research. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has estimated at the beginning of the 21st century that technological progress in this century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of human development, and that in 2029 artificial intelligence will equal human intelligence. It seems like we’re definitely headed in that direction.

One must understand the meaning of the exponential leaps we are experiencing in all areas of life: if 20 linear steps bring us to 20 (1,2,3), then 20 exponential steps (2,4,8) bring us past a million. We can use Kurzweil to precisely illustrate this point: during his studies at MIT, he shared a building-sized computer with the other students. The computer incorporated in the first smartphones was a million times cheaper than that, a million times smaller, a million times stronger, and reflected a billion-fold improvement in per-dollar performance. If we take this a decade or two forward, the information and power we each carry in our pocket will be miniaturized to the size of a blood cell, with tremendous effects on health and intelligence. Thus, to anyone who will live just a little bit longer, Kurzweil promises singularity – the merging of man and machine – and essentially, eternal life. Elon Musk is already working on interfacing the human brain to the cloud.

What Will You Be When You Grow Up? A Prompt Engineer

It’s hard to imaging where all this is leading us. It’s even harder to think about the implications. Regulation and ethics don’t stand a chance of matching this pace, and the political structure, social fabric, family unit, and welfare systems also have several question marks hovering above them. But we shall leave these weighty dilemmas for later.


Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Afeka       


These tectonic technological shifts also herald dramatic changes in the job market. Robotics and artificial intelligence – a term which will naturally crop up here more than once – are redefining professions. Some professions will vanish (requiring to down-skill), some will change (re-skill), others will upgrade (up-skill), and there will be new professions as well. Perhaps you’ll retrain as quadcopter flight controllers. Perhaps you’d rather design personalities for social media influencers. Or what about being prompt engineers, whose job is to refine questions for ChatGPT and Bard?

One thing is clear: if the world is changing and the job market is changing along with it, those charged with preparing the young generation to function in society and the job market – i.e., school and academic institutions – must change as well. Otherwise they risk losing their relevance, or failing in their duty.

A New Breed of Engineering Education?

So what does it actually mean to realize change in an educational process? This question has guided Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Afeka - The Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv. “There’s no longer a question of whether to implement change in learning processes,” he says. “It’s been a fact for a long while now, and a focus at Afeka for several years. But to anyone who still has doubts, the new and widely-available generative AI technologies have made it clear to everyone – to pupils, students, and lecturers – that gathering information from different sources and submitting summaries can be done in minutes by an AI whose abilities are only going to grow.”

As a former senior manager in high tech and startup CEO, and an expert on speech recognition, Prof. Moyal is familiar with the skills required of engineers, which have also been confirmed by a series of surveys Afeka has conducted with the industry. “The industry has indicated that it needs a different profile in its engineers: engineers with in-depth science and engineering knowledge, but equally as important, with skills: critical thinking, self-learning, multidisciplinary teamwork, and effective written and oral communication skills in Hebrew and English.”

Prof. Moyal notes that the students themselves, as rapid adopters of the changing reality, are also changing. “They are no longer content to sit passively at frontal lectures for hours on end. We must create a different academic experience for them, an enjoyable and compelling experience. For example, to break the frontal framework, encourage personal involvement, work on team projects while formulating a pedagogy that produces not only knowledge but skills and an ethical, value-based worldview. We’re already implementing all of that at Afeka.” Prof. Moyal goes further, describing the kindergarten-to-academia educational continuum – a topic which the college deals with extensively, and a cornerstone of the “Afeka Framework” for building an optimal national education continuum for STEM.

No More Homework?

Even within the aforementioned exponential progress, the advent of generative AI, programs that simulate human thought and independently generate images, text, and even software code, is a watershed event of a different order. Bill Gates has compared this revolution to the advent of cellphones and the Internet. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has described AI as the deepest and most powerful technology mankind has ever pushed – more than electricity and fire. For schools and academic institutions, it no doubt poses a special challenge. Some see it as a clear and present danger. “There’s no more homework,” is a complaint heard nowadays across teachers’ lounges and lecturer conferences. Prof. Moyal prefers to look at it differently. “When calculators came in,” he reminds us, “people mourned the death of math studies. Wikipedia and Google also caused an outcry. It is impossible and wrong to halt progress: the point is to know how to channel it into positives. Perhaps this is an opportunity to encourage critical thinking, the telling of right from wrong or of essence from background noise in AI-generated answers, and the ability to add a creative, personal element to the output. These are the skills we need to aim for in order to create relevance and interest. Acquiring them during one’s studies improves the learning process and its outcomes, and these skills are part of the “figure of the alumnus” which we and the job market wish to see among graduates of academic degrees.”

How to get there? How to build it properly for the good of pupils, students, academic institutes, and the country?

That is precisely what Afeka is about.