It's Time to Train

A world-class AI training system for developing the human capital to innovate and build.

Economics, Technology

This essay is a response to a recent blog post [1] by Marc Andreessen, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-author of Mosaic/Netscape, the first widely used web browser, c. 1993.  

Andreessen in his blog asks why we don’t build things anymore, and along the way generally condemns Western institutions for being unprepared for a global pandemic. He writes: “You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life.”

Instead of critiquing this missive, I’d like to focus here on what is really needed, in every culture on Earth, not just Western cultures, in one word: Training. 

Human capital is what really defines our civilizations, Western or otherwise. Without the development of human capital, and I mean the minds and skills of humans, male or female, of any age, we suffer from not achieving the true potential of human civilization, the potential to build not just superstructures, but any kind of liberating technology, such as cures for cancers, treatments for disabilities and aging, and the end of viral pandemics.

Training goes beyond education. Education is an institution that has become entrenched in formality, over real-world application. Training focuses on preparing the human mind and skillset for real-world application, as it is needed. Training can be targeted, on demand, and served toward those who want to be trained in a particular needed area. Educational formalism slows down human potential to contribute to and offer real-world solutions. Training allows humans to focus on solutions to real-world problems and not get bogged down by the chains of the formalized institution of education. 

It is important to define what I mean here as educational formality: Reserve (conventionalism, stiffness, primness, correctness, decorum, smartness, convention) and Procedure (requirement, regurgitation, custom, ritual, ceremony, form, rule). Formal education and educational institutions generally follow all of these descriptors, and they are not useful when the solutions to difficult problems or the building of new novel structures are needed. 

Plenty of human capital is wasted on formalism instead of getting target trained to be productive and innovative in needed areas: industrial, healthcare, technology, agricultural, to name a few major applied vocational areas. Likewise, “educational standards” and “certification/licensing requirements” prevent a good portion of human capital from being productive and innovative contributors in many professional fields: medicine and engineering in particular, two professions that have a severe shortage of contributors. 

Are our formalized education and certification institutions giving us the human capital we need in critical areas to build productively and solve innovatively for the future? No. In fact, industrial, healthcare, technology and agricultural businesses routinely complain that they don’t have the human capital available to fill job openings. The plethora of educated (some highly) applicants are not “qualified” and don’t have the right “skills”. Never mind that almost all of the applicants spent a fortune getting degrees and certifications, for some a lifetime debt load without the chance to contribute productively and pay off that debt, and for all a prolonged process of lost time. The cost/benefit toll is even higher when the K-12 government run education system is factored in. 

What we need is a world-class training system that serves anyone who wants to be trained in needed areas, delivering the abundance of skilled human capital to build and innovate. How do we construct such a system? Who should provide the training? 

Private and publicly traded companies, many in the technology sector, are the loudest voices complaining about the lack of “skilled” workers, in particular, engineers and technicians. By and large, these companies want the government to be involved in solving the shortage problem, some sort of “public-private partnership” that when closely examined, is just another government program or institution. This is the wrong approach. Companies that conceive, design and produce technology products/components, manufactured goods and systems are best suited to know exactly what skills are needed for their workforce, and should be prepared to train the abundantly available human capital to suit their needs. Government need not be involved at all. Cost is one reason companies have neglected to set up training systems to develop available human capital. Instead of investing their cash (capital) in a targeted training system, they complain that government hasn’t delivered. They’d rather “pass the buck” and try and get cheap foreign labor through H1B work visas. Meanwhile, an abundantly available set of human capital that may prove valuable and productive when target trained is left stagnant. 

Constructing world-class training systems for a skilled workforce in industry, healthcare, technology and agriculture can involve some fairly innovative qualities. One in particular is Artificial Intelligence (AI). When a human isn’t available to target train a trainee, an AI can do it, and it never loses patience or passes judgment or mixes emotion into the task. Since it too was trained via machine learning techniques to operate at a certain level of accuracy (among other metrics, some of which may be specialized for training a human trainee), it has a built-in standard for what is expected of a human trainee. Best of all, a specialized AI can train many human trainees, and is much more cost-effective than a human trainer. 

With specialized, targeted AI systems as the skills trainers for a human capital workforce, the sky is the limit. One can only imagine all the critical areas that this could serve: nursing, medicine, engineering, manufacturing, construction trades to name a key few. Over time, these AI-based training systems will become standards with regular improvements and specializations as innovation takes place. Their cost will be a fraction of antiquated one-off human trainer led training programs or journeyman vocational programs, the high training costs that companies and small businesses have complained about. 

I end this essay with a challenge for Marc Andreessen and his like-minded Silicon Valley venture capitalists. It’s time to train, and in developing valuable human capital to be productive and innovative, it might just mean recruiting AI systems to do it, and do it BIG. Our future depends on it. 


[1] “It’s time to build,” Marc Andreessen, Apr 20, 2020,

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