Tag Archives: personal development

Future-proofing your kids: how to prepare your kids for the world that is not yet there

reading time: approx. 6-7 min

How can we prepare our kids for the world that doesn’t exist yet? Which skills will they need in order to succeed? Should we focus on the technical side and teach everybody to code and program? Or should we go for the soft skills like interpersonal communication and emotional intelligence? Of course any additional skill is an asset and the more of these assets kids have the better, however, what is actually crucial? I have been thinking a lot about these questions and no, of course, I don’t have the right answers. Yet, what I do want to share is some more structured context as a basis for further discussion. In the end it is not only our kids, most probably we will still see the completely new world ourselves…

To begin with, the World Economic Forum of this year in the report The Future of Jobs identified a list of skills that will be important for the future:

  • complex problem solving,
  • critical thinking,
  • creativity,
  • people management,
  • coordinating with others,
  • emotional intelligence,
  • judgement and decision-making,
  • service orientation,
  • negotiation,
  • cognitive flexibility.

Well, you cannot go wrong with these ones, they are relevant in all times! But to think further about it: what does the skill “coordinating with others” mean and what if “others” in the future will also include machine intelligence? And what a hell is “service orientation” after all?

In the essence this is already not the world we were born into and it is going to be even more different within this and a decade. Right here and now we are already a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: there are significant developments in such fields as artificial intelligence and machine learning, in robotics, in nanotechnology, in 3D printing, in genetics and biotech. All this is already causing a huge disruption in all domains, calling for different models of working and different skills. I don’t have the magic ball to tell what the future will look like, yet in couple of next paragraphs I would like to fantasize a bit and based on some trends try to imagine which skills might be needed in some particular contexts. I would be very interested to hear other opinions, so if you have something to say – please shoot!

What will the business of tomorrow look like and which skills will help one to succeed? If I look at the trends in various business domains, I am likely to agree with Lisa Gansky that the future of business is very likely to be something of a mesh (for more on that – check out her book “The Mesh”). In the essence that will mean sharing all kinds of stuff be it via smart and technology-enabled rental or just peer-to-peer. What it implies is actually a fundamental shift in our relationship with stuff and this is already happening. Which skills does a success in such business environment call for? I would assume among others:

  • ability to communicate efficiently and even more importantly:
  • ability to create and sustain a community around an idea,

because that’s what’s at the very heart of “the mesh”.

In terms of business and economics one also cannot forget the significant systemic risk of fragility that is caused by the “inter-connectedness” and the growing complexity of this world. Moreover, this complexity makes it close to impossible to have all the information normally required to make a decision. Thus, in order to succeed one has to:

  • be creative enough to be able to construct a big picture based on fragmented input and
  • take decisions in conditions of uncertainty and rapid evolution.

In the field of technology there have also been quite some significant developments recently: cloning, 3D printing, robotics. Have a look at what Boston Dynamics create for instance, it’s amazing! In terms of medical innovation: consider, for example, how hearing aids evolved in the last decade. It will not take long before we are able to hear ultrasound. Or lenses: I am pretty convinced that one day we will be able to see ultraviolet or ultra-red and that will be mundane. Moreover, the first fully programmable cell is there! And speaking about cells – skin cells can be turned into stem cells nowadays, providing enormous possibilities in terms of regeneration. So, having some sort of physical impairment will be less of a problem and more people will also have “not original”: bio or biomechatronic body parts, making them what? Exactly! Cyborgs.

It goes further: maybe within this and a decade we will have some sort of hybrid thinking. Think about it for a moment, it’s no longer just a science fiction! You have probably heard of neocortex – that part of our brains that among others is responsible for learning new behaviors. This is in the essence what distinguishes a more complex brain. But with the rapidly developing nanotechnology there is a huge potential here: what if nanobots in the future are able to get to the brain and connect our physical neocortex to the synthetic neocortex in the cloud? What would that possibility to get outside the limits of fixed architecture of our skulls bring us? Have a look at TED for Ray Kurzweil – in his speech “Get ready for hybrid thinking” he talks more about it.

Another at this moment still futuristic technology of ingesting information might one (not that remote) day also manifest itself. Have a look in this context for some speculations about the future by Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of MIT’s Media Lab. He believes it will one day be possible to swallow a pill and then through the bloodstream the information will get into the brain and will be deposited in the right place. If that is ever possible our kids will no longer need to spend hours and hours learning another language, or learning math, or learning to code, or – you name it.

Here some caveats, however, and significant ones. First, let’s be realistic that all these technologies will be available for the lucky few in the developed world; and second, one can easily step on the tricky road of eugenics. So, as for the “skills inspired” by the above the most important in my opinion is:

  • having strong ethics, which also includes, but is not limited to:
    • ability to understand and appreciate what you have, combined with
    • understanding that others might be less fortunate and
    • willingness and drive to improve this imbalance. 

What else? Machines already learn! But what does that imply? Nick Bostrom (Swedish philosopher at the University of Oxford) speculates that:

“machine intelligence is the last thing that a human will need to invent”.

From then on, the machine will take over. And that poses a very big question of values. If the machine intelligence will go for an optimization of this planet, there is no place for a human anymore – hello, Hollywood!

But seriously… Efficiency without compassion, without love, empathy and caring – it’s a doom scenario for humanity. So we have to be able to teach the machine to learn what we value and to be able to do that one:

  • needs to have strong value foundation and
  • be able to stand for these values.

And which are these values? It’s a question for a separate post, but let’s stick to compassion and empathy for starters.

I mentioned 3D printing and we already see some fantastic applications of this invention. But there is also a dark side to it related to crimes. 3D printing means that you don’t really need to carry a gun to the destination, all you need is a file and a 3D printer at the spot. What is also scary is that the human body is likewise becoming an information technology, where DNA one day will be yet another operating system ready to be hacked.

I am not going to talk in more detail about the crimes of the future, yet what is important to remember is that the ability of one to affect many is scaling exponentially as you are reading this, and not only in a good sense. Moreover, now, more than any time before we are actually capable of completely destroying  our planet. Thus, yuppie to the last year’s discovery of water on Mars – maybe that’s the answer. But on the serious tone, an additional essential skill for the future that I would single out is:

  • an ability to forecast even the unintended consequences of one’s actions and take full responsibility for them.

There are much more developments in different domains than what I have enumerated in this post and probably more skills needed for our kids to be successful. However, without trying to belittle the importance of technical skills I am inclined to conclude that it is mostly the soft side that requires to be “strengthened”. To conclude, it is not going to be an easy world our kids will step into, but something tells me, if equipped right they will have hell of a ride!

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Do you stop developing if you decide to stay at home?

This is a comment I heard way too many times. “I cannot imagine that I would stay at home! That will be a total degradation!”; “A woman has to get a job otherwise she will become stupid and not interesting”, and many others with different words but the same basic message. Arh! To note I am not talking about situations when a woman has to work to provide for the family, I am only talking about cases when a husband actually earns enough to ensure a decent living of his family.

I hate labeling. You can have a salaried job and have no personal development whatsoever. You can have no job and have an amazing personal development. If you are lucky you can have both. Whatever your choice, don’t think it’s the only right one. If somebody chose not to go to work everyday it by no means automatically signifies that this person is not interesting or will face “degradation”. Personal development is only a matter of a personal choice. And a job as such doesn’t mean that you will stay or become interesting. Let’s face it: a lot of people go to work, have their morning coffee, gossip with colleagues, do some stuff, go to have lunch, procrastinate in social networks, do some repetitive stuff again and count down until they can go home; and that’s what they do day in and day out every single working day. The funny thing is that one of the classic representatives of the above example actually did comment on “no job means no development!” – oh, seriously?!

I did have a salaried job, I did freelance, I am thinking about my own business, when kids grow up a bit, but at this particular point in time I am a stay-at-home mother by choice. As I already said in some previous posts just that already hones a whole bunch of skills. Yet, at all times in my life, whatever I was doing to earn the living, I also had  and still do have quite some hobbies.

  • I love reading and I am usually even reading several books at the same time – just finished Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury and am almost done with Walden and Civil Disobedience by Thoreau. After I discovered Kindle my reading hours increased even more, as it makes reading in all circumstances so extremely convenient – Kindle Paperwhite has an in-built light, so you can read in the dark; you conveniently hold it in one hand and don’t need your second hand to turn pages; it has an effect of a paper, so no reflection, allowing you to read in a bright sun; not even talking about being able to have a lot of books without the need to carry around a lot of weight. And it’s not only fiction that I read, but also quite some non-fiction, mostly business books or articles on raising bilingual kids.
  • As regards cooking – it is not only a mere necessity, but also an additional hobby of mine. Frequently it is inspired by Foodpairing (c) and sometimes – by a molecular cuisine. I love experimenting, I love surprising. Cooking allows for that.
  • I did quite some online courses – e.g. Child Nutrition and Cooking by Stanford; Open Permaculture School by Regenerative Leadership Institute; Cognitive Psychology, as well as Crisis Intervention: theory and practice, as well as some others by WEU; Introduction to Psychology by MIT, just to name a few.
  • A week ago I have already planted tomato seeds inside for the subsequent replanting into my square foot garden – yet another hobby of mine.
  • I do cross-stitch embroidery .
  • When an inspiration comes I write poems which couple of years ago I assembled into a book published by Lulu. I write in Russian but for the book I provided translations into English, mostly for my husband to be able to understand them.
  • Recently I started calligraphy;
  • Also recently I finally got to sewing resulting in a nice set of clothes for my daughter and son.
  • I learned to play golf and when the weather outside allows for it, my daughter is in her “school” or willing to join and my son is peacefully asleep in his buggy, I am pitching in the garden with my Tailor Made or hitting some perforated balls with Big Bertha. Also, we do escape to the field with my husband from time to time.
  • I am intensively learning Dutch to get it to the fluency level. Next will be Spanish, where I have some basics, and Italian which I just love.

The bottom-line is – and I repeat it once again – everything is a matter of your choice and your priorities. If you want to keep on developing you will find a way, if not – you will find an excuse.

As a Postscriptum – no, I don’t have a nanny and never did. It is possible to cook together with even a very small kid and in that way develop the motor skills and the speech, if you talk at the same time of course; it is possible to do calligraphy together, when you little one is scribbling something on another piece of paper; it is possible to sew and make a toddler cut the threads; it is possible to pitch and allow the happy toddler bring the balls;… But I will talk about all this in one of the subsequent posts on how to include a kid in your life.

Solutions, no excuses!