Last year, Dr. Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University, referenced the coming of a revolution. His book, “Robot Proof - Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” discusses how the world of business is changing significantly, especially with the increasing presence of technology in today’s business activities.

Just take a look around you, it is clear that the future of business is already here – whether through autonomous vehicles, big data, 3-D printing, virtual and augmented reality and other technologies. For example, Tesla recently announced the rollout of their Version 9 full, self-driving cars in August. While the vehicles still require a driver with their hands on the steering wheel, the introduction of a full, self-driving vehicle, where a driver is not needed, is inevitable. Consequently, advances like this will change how and what is taught in academic courses related to business models. This will include home and residential real estate construction, when large parking spaces become unnecessary and global supply chain, when vehicles can be sent across the nation, coast to coast without required rest breaks other than for gas or electricity.

Another example, is the large number of accounting, financial and insurance companies pursuing blockchain technology. The technology can be used to speed up and simplify cross border payments, allowing greater trade accuracy, and a shorter settlement process. In addition, there is the possibility of using smart contracts, making commercial transactions automatic and improving online identity management, where the transaction itself is traceable, but not the participant. While most of the recent uses of blockchain have appeared in for-profit industries, there is potential for an even greater impact in the non-profit world. For example, the city of Austin, Texas is piloting a blockchain platform for identity services with its homeless population, which will improve the ability of the city to offer integrated and comprehensive aid to marginal populations, including the homeless and refugees. Similarly, the Institute for the Future won an award for a paper that outlined the use of a blockchain platform to create smart health profiles to ensure easy access to health services for Medicare patients, while maintaining privacy and reducing cost.

The question facing the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics and higher education, is how to prepare students for this evolving marketplace. First, it is important that students gain an understanding of data and technological literacy early on. While most students are digital natives, they need to know how to read, analyze, and interpret this constant flow of information and to adapt to living and working in a constant stream of big data, connectivity and information immediacy.

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