The Useless Class

Original article was published by Virgilyo Souza on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


As humans, we have three phases in life. First, we are kids and exploring all of the possibilities of the world. We don’t worry about anything but to grow and develop, a process that happens naturally. Everything is wonderful and life is great. Second, we begin to take life a bit more seriously because now we are entering into an age of responsibility. We must choose a path and stick to it. That’s how the brain understands it as well. The third and final phase is when everything is set and done, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of the hard labor from the years prior. The problem with this model today is that young adults are taking longer to transition from the first phase into the second.

The problem really begins in the educational sector. Teachers have no idea what to teach kids because what is important today will no longer be important tomorrow. The skills and knowledge that college professors provide will be irrelevant in just a few years because most of the curriculum is made out of the industrial revolution, not updated to the digital revolution. In other words, for the lack of not knowing what the future would look like, even the teachers, from elementary school, all the way to universities, the whole education system is stuck in the past and failing to prepare the next generation to move forward as individuals and in their communities resulting in them feeling lost in a chaotic world.

Some area that will be a huge advantage for kids growing up today is the development of their emotional intelligence, personal and corporate values, independent thinking, cherish creativity and curiosity, invest in artistic abilities, learn how to be a team player, and care for others.

Watch Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, as he describes his similar views on this.

Because of these phases, we have in life and the demands that have been placed on us, we find it hard to adapt to change. The old brain of ours doesn’t do well in circumstances where we must constantly have to be changing, evolving, and learning new things. However, learning these skills mentioned above early in life may be one of the solutions for the new generation to thrive in the new economy, as well as being a life-long learner.

Long gone is the idea that a four-year degree is enough, or a master or even a Ph.D. will guarantee anyone a lifelong sustainable financial stability. The future is self-learning till retirement if that’s one’s plan and beyond. No one will be able to survive the modern economic force by relying solely on one set of information or one set of skills. You will have to know a lot more than just a few things. This is why many companies are investing heavily in developing their employees in such a way that they become lifelong learners to the extent of setting aside a budget to help these individuals get more knowledge and skills necessary for the demands already in place.

For example, AT&T with around 300,000 employees faces two big workforce problems: rapidly changing skills requirements in the era of big data and cloud computing and constant employee churn that leaves the company having to fill 50,000 jobs a year. These jobs that have to be filled each year, recruiting from outside is difficult, expensive, and liable to cause ill-feelings among existing staff. The answer to this problem is an ambitious plan to reskill their own people spending in 2015 alone $30 million in tuition fees for its employees who are willing to get reskilled.

AT&T is not alone in this journey. When Satya Nadella became Microsoft CEO in 2014, he shifted the focus and culture of the company by adapting Carol Dweck’sGrowth Mindset” into their core philosophy. Mark Zuckerberg pledged to learn something new every year and started a book club in 2015 for that purpose.

So what am I trying to say here?

Basically is this: if you want to thrive in the modern economy you will have to adapt to this new way of doing things in the workforce. You will have to continue learning beyond your school years. Failing to do so will result in you staying behind and struggle to navigate this fast-paced economy.

Many companies reward people who put in the effort themselves to acquire new skills and knowledge. This is why platforms like Khan Academy, edX, Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, and many more are great places to get free or very affordable paid courses (no affiliation) that will put anyone ahead by learning new skills not only in the field of expertise but also branch out to others where demand is high. I’m currently enrolled in a free introductory course, Financial Markets by Yale University, which will add to my knowledge base so I can understand the world of finance a little better. Many of these courses in these platforms have an option of a certificate that you can add to your resume or LinkedIn profile, as well as real college credits costing far less money compared to regular institutions.

The world has changed. We don’t know what will look like five years from now. It will be tough and really hard to adapt. But here is something that will happen for sure: if you and I don’t change our minds we will be left behind mourning to higher institutions to take care of us because the modern economy was unfair to us and took away our jobs. The modern economy wasn’t unfair to us, we were lazy and unwilling to do whatever it takes to grow ourselves and become more valuable in the marketplace. We are responsible for our future, and that responsibility starts by changing our minds TODAY unless we want to join the future useless class that machines and artificial intelligence will replace us with. We rather learn to work with them or we will be left out. The choice is ours.

OBS: In future newsletters, I will be sharing more about the modern economic model that many countries are executing and some are being forced to do so. It’s a fascinating study that I have been enjoying a lot. Stay tuned for that.