What Kids Need to Learn to Succeed in 2050
The art of reinvention will be the most critical skill of this century
Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions, all our old stories are crumbling, and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirtysomething in 2050. If all goes well, that baby will still be around in 2100 and might even be an active citizen of the 22nd century. What should we teach that baby that will help them survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or the 22nd century? What kind of skills will they need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them, and navigate the maze of life?
Unfortunately, since nobody knows what the world will look like in 2050 — not to mention 2100 — we don’t know the answer to these questions. Of course, humans have never been able to predict the future with accuracy. But today it is more difficult than ever before because once technology enables us to engineer bodies, brains, and minds, we will no longer be able to be certain about anything — including things that previously seemed fixed and eternal.
A thousand years ago, in 1018, there were many things people didn’t know about the future, but they were nevertheless convinced that the basic features of human society were not going to change. If you lived in China in 1018, you knew that by 1050 the Song Empire might collapse, the Khitans might invade from the north, and plagues might kill millions. However, it was clear to you that even in 1050 most people would still work as farmers and weavers, rulers would still rely on humans to staff their armies and bureaucracies, men would still dominate women, life expectancy would still be about 40, and the human body would remain exactly the same. For that reason, in 1018 poor Chinese parents taught their children how to plant rice or weave silk; wealthier parents taught their boys how to read the Confucian classics, write calligraphy, or fight on horseback, and they taught their girls to be modest and obedient housewives. It was obvious that these skills would still be needed in 1050.
To keep up with the world of…