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Skill development

The skills of the future: N°1 Critical Thinking

eye 631 Published on 03 Oct. 2023
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The Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution is underway, radically transforming how we approach jobs and the future of work. In this swiftly changing world, where today's professions might well become outdated tomorrow, a question arises: what competencies will be necessary to adapt, thrive, and excel?

Technical skills, once highly valued, are increasingly being sidelined. They are rapidly  becoming  obsolete and are now competing with AI's capabilities. Thus, with knowledge becoming dethroned, individuals must reinvent their value by mobilising skills that are uniquely human and cerebral.

In this inaugural article of our series on future skills, we will explore the significance of critical thinking in an ever-evolving world.

What is critical thinking?

Combining cognitive abilities with personal qualities, critical thinking is a way of reasoning efficiently and consciously about the world around us to grasp its complexity. Critical thinking is a form of judgement that relies on logical reasoning. It draws on adaptability, open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and self-confidence. These abilities allow an individual to take a step back to assess information and situations from various perspectives, to question them, to form a robust yet nuanced opinion, and to reach reliable conclusions about what to believe or do.

Why is critical thinking vital?

Critical thinking is an essential skill for navigating the complexity of tomorrow's world. In an age where technology floods us with information, whose relevance can be questionable, critical thinking is more important than ever to ensure an accurate interpretation of the surrounding world. Add to this the rise of AI, which is increasingly taking over analytical and reflective tasks previously reserved for humans, thinking on our behalf and offering ready-made solutions. While these activities might seem helpful at first glance, they risk making humans passive and vulnerable, prone to misleading shortcuts in thinking.

Critical thinking enables us to filter and assess this information to discern what is reliable, relevant, and trustworthy. An increasing number of individuals are testing ChatGPT's capabilities and are amazed by the quality of its discourse and the abundance of information it provides. But is this information truthful? Can we accept it blindly and use it straight away to meet our needs? Of course not. Using critical thinking, one can question the information generated by ChatGPT and ponder its reliability and credibility. One must also be attentive to the logic of the answers, looking for inconsistencies or contradictions in the information provided. It's also vital to step back and analyse if the answers fit the context of our request, adjusting them if necessary, or even challenging them.

How to measure critical thinking?

Individuals with sharp critical thinking act thoughtfully and proactively to examine, analyse, and evaluate information thoroughly. They strive to understand the world around them objectively and make informed decisions based on facts and rigorous reflection. This skill can be assessed through management baskets or case studies focused on problem-solving, decision-making, or the analysis of argumentative texts.

Critical thinking can also be measured using aptitude tests. The most relevant ones present individuals with scenarios close to professional realities. These tests measure an individual's speed of thought as well as the quality of their reasoning concerning the relevance of their judgement, their ability to solve complex problems, and to propose coherent and original solutions.

How to develop critical thinking?

Given this observation, actions can be deployed to strengthen the ability to exercise critical reasoning. A certain mental exercise needs to be put in place, and with diligence and motivation, critical thinking can be refined. For instance, critical reading, which involves reflective reading and asking questions rather than readily accepting content, is an excellent exercise. Starting with a favourite theme to ensure your motivation, you can read articles from various sources, questioning the author's credibility, the accuracy of the cited sources, and the quality of the evidence provided. You can also compare your readings with other sources on the subject to develop your ability to discern reliable information from misleading ones.

Debates are another proven exercise for enhancing critical thinking. It can be combined with critical reading since having deeply explored a subject dear to your beliefs can be intriguing to discuss with people who share more or less the same opinions. These debates are excellent playgrounds for those wanting to work on their logical and factual arguments. You can reflect on the quality of exchanges and the value of expressed opinions. You can then communicate your point of view, which you would have honed and supported, to argue critically yet nuanced.

By developing critical thinking, individuals are better equipped to evaluate information rigorously, solve problems, make informed decisions, and understand the world around them more objectively. Moreover, given the enormous technological changes underway, critical thinking enables intelligent interaction with AI, making individuals active and conscious players in this rapidly changing world.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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