What should we teach our kids?

Automation is continuing apace. Before too long we will have self-driving cars, robots running factories, and computers taking over white collar jobs like marking exam papers and legal work. Oxford researchers estimate that 45% of todays jobs will disappear in the next twenty years. Also in this fast changing world hard-earned professional skills can quickly become redundant – driving and legal work follow from the examples I gave above, but there are many, many others. The folks at Singularity University are fond of saying that half life for a skill has dropped from 30 years in the mid-late twentieth century to five years today.

All this means that training for a specific job is highly dangerous. No longer will doing a law or medical degree be safe options. Nor will be people be able to work hard to build a trade and then rest on their laurels.

In the future success is going to go more to people who have a good ability to learn, and who are happy to keep evolving their skill set to stay relevant. So we should be teaching our kids how to learn and instilling a thirst for knowledge. It’s not just our kids either. If 45% of jobs are going to disappear in the next twenty years then there will be a lot of people who need help learning something new to get back into the workforce. Teaching them how to learn and how to stay relevant is a much smarter idea than teaching them a new skill which may well itself become redundant.

We should also try to ensure our kids have social skills, self-awareness and a conscience. In a world of fast change and automation those who get on with others, are prepared to look at themselves critically, and genuinely want to do good work will prosper whilst those who try to duck and dive or game the system will increasingly find that their tricks don’t work.