How do we prepare our children better for the future?

At the Zenises Foundation we believe that education is the future for children especially if they have to break the cycle of poverty. With the advancements in Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and Robotics I was concerned whether the education that the Foundation provides to children will really prepare them for the future. In my recent trip to Silicon Valley I met with many tech insiders and posed them this question – how do we educate our children for a world where by 2035 years 40% of the jobs that will exist are not even conceived yet? Fewer workers will be needed for the jobs we have now, so children must be prepared for the jobs we cannot imagine.  My basic conclusion after a week of discussions and interviews was simple. In the future there will be two types of jobs: people who tell computers what to do, and people who are told what to do by computers. So now how do I ensure that our children are the in the former half?!?

If we want our children to ‘rule the machines’ we really need to focus what makes our children individuals. We need to move on from a 19th-century, artisanal model of education — where knowledge resides with each classroom teacher — to a 21st-century personalised experience that technology can replicate on a global scale. The new model should focus on skills, not knowledge you can Google, and abilities that will be needed, whatever the workplace.  So what are these abilities?

I believe that the most important things we need our children to focus on are around curiosity, passion and persistence. Rote learning needs to be done with — computers can now do this. Children need to have the interpersonal skills to work in groups, to communicate well, be creative, arrive at an answer in many different ways.

Curiosity is something innate in our children, yet something lost by most adults during the course of their life. Perhaps because we “educate” the curiosity out of our children making them “learn” things they don’t need. In a world of Google, robotics and AI, raising a child that is constantly asking questions and running “A/B Tests” can be extremely valuable. In an age of machine learning, massive data and the Internet of Things, it will be the quality of their questions that will be most important.

One of the most valuable resources our children have is an imaginative and passionate human mind. We need to ensure that we don’t “socialise” that out of them as they grow up. Children are the some of the most imaginative people on the planet. We need to help them find a passion or purpose that is uniquely theirs. Once they do that then they can imagine the world they want to live in. Their passionate mind will then help them create that world. I imagine a relatively near-term future in which robotics and AI will allow any of us, from ages 8 to 108, to easily and quickly find answers, create products or accomplish tasks, all simply by being passionate about what we imagine.

Teaching our children not to give up and to keep trying new ideas for something that they are truly passionate about achieving is extremely critical. Acceptance of failure as an integral part of this process is also key for us to inculcate in our children. I do believe that persistence is one of the most important predictors of and contributors to success. I always joke with my son about how many nights it took for Zenises to become the “overnight” success that people claim it is.

Once our children have the curiosity to ask the right questions, the passion and imagination to be able to drive them and the persistence to keep going there will be nothing that will stop them from ‘ruling the machines’. Einstein once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” And look what he achieved – and that was without the help of AI and Robotics. God Bless our Children – Our Future!