May 7, 2018 – On a visit to Ashesi, WISE CEO, Stavros Yiannouka shared his perspective on how values and ethics are reflected in education. Speaking to a cross-section of students, staff and faculty, he touched on the value of pursuing knowledge broadly and how artificial intelligence impacts education.

In his talk, Yiannouka shared the importance of exploring a variety of domains beyond one’s perceived area of expertise, and how this phenomenon impacts leadership.

“Presently, our society disproportionately rewards expertise,” he said. “The problem we have today with the decline in values and ethics, amongst our leaders, to some extent can be attributed to this. People tend to get so narrowly focused in their domain that they end up knowing little to nothing about other areas. So, unless they stumble into other interests, they remain narrowly focused to the exclusion of almost everything else. Worse, they misinterpret their expertise in a particular domain or just generalise it across all domains.  This has led to some poor choices being made and a tendency to undervalue ethical considerations that are needed in decision-making.”

Speaking further on how humans can best take advantage of their skills, he touched on the value of generalism, over pursuing expertise in a field.

“More and more, what used to be expert functions are now being performed better by machines,” he explained. “So over time I see expertise becoming less attractive. Instead what’s going to be more attractive is what humans beings are naturally good at, which is being good generalists. We didn’t get to where we are today because we were good at doing one thing only. We came this far today as a species because we could do a mix of things well enough. We are not the strongest, we are clearly not the fastest and we are arguably not the ones with the biggest brains, but we’ve managed to dominate so far, because we can do a lot of things well, and together, we also do them well.”

On education and schooling, Yiannouka also shared that higher levels of schooling did not necessarily translate to better knowledge and decision-making.

“We need to subscribe to education, not as a limp experience in school but as a mindset and a set of values that are cultivated and developed not only through schooling, but also through a variety of other means that could be explored," he said. “A critical concern for educational institutions should be how to effectively inject ethics and values in the education enterprise while respecting diversity and differences of opinion.”

In 2017, the Qatar Foundationawarded Ashesi founder, Dr. Patrick Awuah the WISE Awardfor Ashesi’s impact in education across the African continent.

The WISE Prize for Education is the first distinction of its kind to recognize an individual or a team of up to six people for an outstanding, world-class contribution to education. The Laureate receives the WISE Prize for Education gold medal, and $500,000.