Friday, July 19, 2019

“Businesses Say Dyslexic Strengths Needed in the Age of AI”

“Businesses Say Dyslexic Strengths Needed in the Age of AI”

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA)

Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon, November 7-10, 2019 

Presenter: Thomas G. West

Short Description for Conference Program

In recent years, major accounting and business consulting firms have studied the kinds of skills and capabilities that employers say they will need in the near future, especially in relation to the rapid growth in intelligent computing systems.  A report issued in October 2018 by one of these firms has indicated that many of the strengths commonly exhibited by dyslexics align well with the kinds of capabilities that surveys of employers have specified -- especially with current major trends in ubiquitous computer networks and scientific data visualization as well as “deep learning” and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Detailed Overview of Presentation 

Recent studies by major business consultancies have indicated the kinds of skills and capabilities that employers say they will need in the near future.  A report issued in October 2018 by EY (formerly Ernst and Young) has indicated that many of the strengths commonly exhibited by dyslexics align well with the kinds of capabilities that surveys of employers have specified. 

The EY report is titled, “The value of dyslexia: Dyslexic strengths and the changing world of work.” The EY preface explains: “In this report, we analyze how dyslexic strengths match closely to the pressing skill requirements of the changing world and have provided recommendations to nurture and grow these abilities. Our findings show the huge benefits to be had from taking action to maximize dyslexic strengths. With this in mind, we trust our work will help in seeing the value of proactively educating, recruiting, developing and retaining those with dyslexia.”

In a recent interview conducted by this presenter (February 2019), a senior officer of Deloite indicated that all four of the major business consultancies are now very busy with contracts working for corporations, governments and military organizations around the world as they try to understand how to deal with human jobs as they are hit by wave upon wave of highly intelligent machines. (The “big four” firms are Deloitte, EY-Ernst & YoungKPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.) 

With these contracts and studies, a long-predicted pattern is increasingly clear as it unfolds. The reading, academic and clerical skills where dyslexics have the greatest difficulties have diminishing economic value -- while their creative, innovative and big-picture thinking capabilities are rapidly increasing in economic value. The new machines can now read hundreds or thousands of books in seconds and answer sophisticated questions, according to Ray Kurzweil, currently working with Google.

In addition, with “deep learning” by these machines, high-level skills are being rapidly replaced in medicine, law and other professional fields. According to Roger Paroff’s article on “The Deep Learning Revolution,” in the business magazine Fortune: “Many of the most exciting new attempts to apply deep learning are in the medical realm. . . . While a radiologist might see thousands of images in his life, a computer can be shown millions. . . . The most remarkable thing about neural nets is that no human being has programmed the computer to perform any of these stunts. . . . In fact, no human could. Programmers have, rather, fed the computer a learning algorithm, exposed it to terabytes of data -- hundreds of thousands of images . . . to train it, and have allowed the computer to figure out for itself how to recognize the desired objects. . . .  In short, such computers can now teach themselves.” 

The presenter’s objective will be to discuss the implications of these new realities for IDA and IDA members: whether to continue to focus mainly on reading and conventional academic remediation -- or whether to initiate a new additional program of research to begin to help dyslexic children and adults to take advantage of their distinctive talents and capabilities to thrive in a dramatically transformed workplace. These new studies and perspectives are expected to provide important new research opportunities for neuroscientists, dyslexia specialists and schools of education as well as provide considerable benefit to dyslexics themselves -- and, in time, to non-dyslexics as well.

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Additional Requested Information for IDA Presentation 

Brief Biographical Sketch

West’sfirst book is In the Mind's Eye: Creative Visual Thinkers, Gifted Dyslexics and the Rise of Visual Technologies. This book was awarded a gold seal and selected as one of the “best of the best” for the year by the American Library Association. The book has been translated into Japanese, Chinese and Korean -- and West has provided presentations for scientific, medical, art, design, computer and business groups in the U.S. and 19 foreign countries.        

West’s second book isThinking like Einstein: Returning to Our Visual Roots with the Emerging Revolution in Computer Information Visualization. This book is based on seven years of invited articles and columns written for the in-house magazine of the international computer graphics organization ACM-SIGGRAPH (with annual conferences of up to 60,000 scientists, technologists, artists and makers of feature films). 

His third book -- Seeing What Others Cannot See: The Hidden Advantages of Visual Thinkers and Differently Wired Brains-- focuses on stories of scientific discoveries made by dyslexics and other different thinkers.

West continues to lecture worldwide having given presentations to the Confederation of British Industry in London, the Netherlands Design Institute in Amsterdam, a meeting of 50 Max Planck Institutes in Göttingen, Germany, the Italian Dyslexia Association in Rome, the first “Diversity Day” conference for the staff of GCHQ, the code-making and code-breaking descendants of Bletchley Park (World War II code breakers), in Cheltenham, England, scientists and artists at Green College and at Magdalen College within Oxford University, England, the Royal College of Art in London, the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, a dyslexia policy conference at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, the University of California at Berkeley, an education conference sponsored by Harvard and MIT, the Arts Dyslexia Trust in London, an education conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and a meeting of visualization scientists and artists sponsored by MIT and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. 

Other presentations have included the Learning Disability Association of Taiwan, the international conference of computer graphic artists and technologists (ACM-SIGGRAPH) in Vancouver, BC, Canada, the International Symposium on Dyslexia in the Chinese Language organized by the Society of Child Neurology and Developmental Pediatrics in Hong Kong, the U.S. National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, the Aspen Institute in Colorado,Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California – anda Director's Colloquium for scientists and staff of NASA Ames Research Center (at Moffett Field in California’s Silicon Valley)

In November 2014, West was invited to give five talks for the Dyslexia Association of Singapore as part of a nation-wide effort to take advantage of the distinctive talents exhibited by dyslexic children and adults. Long a leader in technological and commercial innovation, Singapore plans to lead the world with this effort as well. 

The second edition of In the Mind’s Eyeincludes a Foreword by the famous medical writer Oliver Sacks, MD, who said “In the Mind's Eyebrings out the special problems of people with dyslexia, but also their strengths, which are so often overlooked. . . . It stands alongside Howard Gardner's Frames of Mindas a testament to the range of human talent and possibility.”According to one reviewer: “Every once in a while a book comes along that turns one’s thinking upside down. In the Mind's Eyeis just such a book.” 

Selected Readings 

West, Thomas G., 1992. “A Future of Reversals: Dyslexic Talents in a World of Computer Visualization,” Annals of Dyslexia, vol. 42, pp. 124-139. 

West, Thomas G., 1994. “A Return to Visual Thinking.”  In Proceedings, Science and Scientific Computing: Visions of a Creative Symbiosis. Symposium of Computer Users in the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, edited and translated by P. Wittenberg and T. Plesser. Gottingen, Germany, November 1993. (Published in 1994.) (Paper published in German: Ruckkehr zum visuellen Denken, Forschung und Wissenschftliches Rechnen: Beitrage anlasslich des 10. EGV-Benutzertreffens der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Gottingen, November 1993.)

West, Thomas G., 1999. “The Abilities of Those with Reading Disabilities: Focusing on the Talents of People with Dyslexia.” Chapter 11, Reading and Attention Disorders: Neurobiological Correlates. Editedby Drake D. Duane, MD, Baltimore, MD: York Press, Inc. 

West, Thomas G., 2004. Thinking Like Einstein: Returning to Our Visual Roots with the Emerging Revolution in Computer Information Visualization. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. 

West, Thomas G., 2005. “The Gifts of Dyslexia: Talents Among Dyslexics and Their Families,” Hong Kong Journal of Paediatrics(New Series), 10, 153-158. 

West, Thomas G., 2009.In the Mind’s Eye: Creative Visual Thinkers, Gifted Dyslexics and the Rise of Visual Technologies. Second edition. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, distributed by Penguin Random House. (The second edition of In the Mind’s Eyeincludes a Foreword by the late Oliver Sacks, MD, who said “In the Mind’s Eyebrings out the special problems of people with dyslexia, but also their strengths, which are so often overlooked. . . . It stands alongside Howard Gardner's Frames of Mindas a testament to the range of human talent and possibility.”)

West, Thomas G., 2014. “Amazing Shortcomings, Amazing Strengths: Beginning to Understand the Hidden Talents of Dyslexics,” Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences, vol. 1, no. 1, January 2014, pp. 78-89. (A publication of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). DAS has initiated a multi-year program “Embrace Dyslexia,” intended to take advantage of the distinctive talents of dyslexic children and adults, as a form of economic competitive advantage. Long a leader in technology and commerce, Singapore intends to lead the world in this effort as well. In November 2014, Thomas G. West was invited to visit Singapore for a week to give five talks as part of the kick-off for the “Embrace Dyslexia” program.)

West, Thomas G., 2017. Seeing What Others Cannot See: The Hidden Advantages of Visual Thinkers and Differently Wired Brains. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, distributed by Penguin Random House. 


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