Embrace lifelong learning to become robot-proof, President Aoun tells students

President Joseph E. Aoun addresses the Student Government Association prior to their meeting in the Curry Student Center. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

As Northeastern students continue to learn and grow throughout their lives, the university will be there to support them, President Joseph E. Aoun told Northeastern’s Student Government Association on Monday night.

“We have launched a global university system that will allow you, wherever you are, to partake in lifelong learning,” Aoun said. “The university will be with you wherever you are, whenever you need it, throughout your life.”

In a world in which artificial intelligence is expected to displace millions of workers from their jobs, people need to continue learning and improving themselves throughout their lives, Aoun said. The university’s strategic plan, Northeastern 2025, embraces the benefits of lifelong learning, combined with interdisciplinary and experiential education and an approach to learning called humanics, which combines data literacy, tech literacy, and human literacy.

“Leadership is a human attribute; machines are not leaders,” Aoun said. “You’re going to shape the future, instead of being shaped by it.”

By embracing the type of learning and knowledge that separates humans from machines, Northeastern students will have the skills needed to thrive in a workforce disrupted by advancements in technology. It’s a model Aoun wrote about in his book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, and one that he posits more universities are likely to emulate to remain relevant.

“Becoming robot-proof is a journey, and it starts right here,” Aoun said. “We need to educate ourselves constantly. We need to retool and upskill ourselves.”

Aoun also urged students to take advantage of a new tool to help them make sense of their learning experiences in class and in their lives: the Self-Authored Integrated Learning Platform, a newly launched digital platform more commonly known as SAIL.

The platform is a reflective tool designed to help students, alumni, and lifelong learners document and track their personal and professional growth, cataloging their own experiences throughout their lives. Users can set learning objectives and use the app to find mentoring, networking advice, and feedback on courses, co-ops, and their life experiences.

“This will allow you to negotiate your journey for life,” Aoun said.