A few days ago I was surfing radio channels and I came across a discussion between Andrew Marr and the author Yuval Noah Harari on the BBC Radio Four programme “Start the Week”. Harari is an historian; the author of the bestselling book “Sapiens”. He has a new book out entitled “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” and so hence his appearance. https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m0000m7b
I crashed into the discussion as Harari was describing the risks of AI and bio engineering – perhaps allowing some humans to develop more powerful brains … and the continuation of the trend for us to allow algorithms to make more of our choices:– who we date, what we buy, what we watch… or maybe who we will vote for? Harari said he was not setting out a prophecy but he was highlighting the possible dangers of such developments. He suggested that we should consider choosing our governments based on their competence to address such issues. Interesting.
What really peaked my interest was Harari‘s belief that most of what we are teaching our kids will be irrelevant to them in their lives (…I expect he accepts that numeracy and literacy are a given) – so Marr asked him what we should be teaching; to which he replied that our children are destined to navigate a world where things will keep on changing very quickly… much quicker than ever before… and that they may well be required to reinvent themselves every decade. To thrive in such a world he suggested that our children will need to develop “emotional intelligence” and “mental balance”.
There are quite a few ideas in that last paragraph. Firstly, things really are changing faster than before. My grandfather trained in a trade and worked for one employer until retirement. yet I have already changed career a number of times. If someone is hired on the line at Nissan today – then who’s to say how long that job will last… or even the factory… or even Nissan? (There used to be a large Kodak factory in Hertfordshire… but Kodak is no more… nor Woolies, BHS or House of Fraser… Etc). So the half-life of jobs, plants and companies must be reducing at a pace.
Second – “emotional intelligence” – our Generation Z children seem to be very low on transferable interpersonal skills. One of Carina Sciences’ early ideas was to provide an app to improve the emotional intelligence of teenagers – maybe we should revive that project!
Thirdly – our children will need “mental balance”… mindfulness… an ability to take such change in their stride – …sounds like an essential attribute. At Carina we have recently completed the “toolbox” for our REZL app – one of the tools is a tutorial and meditation to help people to deal with change in their lives – at work, at home or in relationships. People are often slow to accept the inevitability of change and the impossibility of having things remain the same… they need to depersonalise the “change initiative” so that they can let go of anger and disillusionment – especially as skills, processes and infrastructure in which they have invested are set aside – and to keep in mind that the change does not mean that their efforts to date are not appreciated …it’s more that the future requires something different. Lastly, change situations can also cause anxiety… “what will happen in the future?… to me?”. So in a world where our children are to face regular and disruptive change they will be well served by “mental balance” and a mindful approach. If that is where we are heading we had better get ready!