A Change is Gonna Come

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    Welcome, or welcome back! This edition, how learning and development is changing, how to design your career, and how to make work less lonely.

    As I mentioned in the last edition of this newsletter, I was recently at the 100 Year EdTech Project, hosted by Arizona State University .

    It was an amazing event that included leading universities, futurists and companies that were invested in the future of work. We were all trying to figure out what’s next for education, looking at disruptors like AI, biological enhancements, and even inter-species communication.

    If you would like to learn more about the initiative, you can do so here, but I want to spend some time this week sharing my thoughts from the event, which I’ll break down into three simple, but perhaps provocative, questions.

    I want to be clear, all these views are my own, although they’ve been heavily influenced by all the amazing people I met at the 100 Year EdTech Project.

    Question 1: Do Humans have a role in the Future of Work?

    I think the answer to this is yes, as long as we, as humans, want it, and are prepared to fight for it.

    Let’s be clear – at best we have a few decades before AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) supersedes human capabilities, and unless we ensure it, it’s highly unlikely that AGI will put humans at the centre of the future of work.

    It’s definitely not a given that humans will continue to have meaningful work. As I’ve mentioned before, It’s worth remembering that as humans we’ve only been able to influence each other at a societal level for about 7000 years, and most parts of society have only done something akin to paid work for a few hundred years. As for meaningful work? The concept has only existed for a few decades, and has only become a reality for a lucky few very recently. So, it’s definitely possible to argue that the current “human-centric” discussions that we have about work represent a “first-world” anomaly.

    But more and more of us are now realizing that a world of work that does not put humans at the center is pretty dystopian. While the primary motivation for working usually remains the paycheck, many of us need work almost as much as it needs us. We need it to connect with others, and to effect meaningful change in the world. It’s one of the reasons why so many of us face mental and physical health challenges when we retire.

    Question 2: Are Universities Still Important?

    Again, yes, as long as we want them to be.

    Today, tech companies like Google are placing less and less relevance on a collage degree, and the emergence of high quality education that is cheap to free suggests that universities as we have traditionally defined them might be an unnecessary luxury.

    But I believe it’s more complicated than that. Universities do much more than teach 18-24 year olds. They drive research, promote discussion, and develop well-rounded people that advance society. Those people may be pre-teens, employees, managers, leaders or retirees, because development does not belong to a particular time or place any more. Development is increasingly what it should always have been, a lifelong activity.

    That’s what impressed me most about the 100 Year EdTech project – the widespread recognition that universities must play a critical role in the continuous development of humans. The how of that can and should change, but it’s been changing since Oxford University was formed and probably before that.

    Question 3: What Should I/My Children Do to Stay Relevant?

    This used to be pretty simple. Tech is the future, so get really smart on it.

    But I think this is changing very very fast. As an example, it should not be surprising that computers are good at programming, and getting better at it. So a pure software engineering role is no longer the guarantee of a great future.

    I’ve argued for some time that there are two capabilities that everyone will need, regardless of major.

    • Adaptability – the ability to adjust based on changing circumstances
    • Resilience – the ability to cope emotionally and intellectually with change

    My time at the 100 Year EdTech Project did not change that opinion, but it made me realize we need to emphasize two additional capabilities, learning, and thinking.

    That might sound obvious, almost to the point of ridiculousness, but let me explain what I mean:

    Advances in technology mean that learning is no longer something we can just do at school and update with a few certifications at work when a new trend hits. As an example, think about Generative AI. As I’ve mentioned previously, it launched in Nov 2002 and within 9 months was being used by a majority of office workers. But the second part of that story is how much it evolved during those 9 months. If you are using GPT in the way you were at the end of 2002, you are massively less productive than you could be. Learning should now be a continuous, everyday activity.

    As for thinking, of course we all think, but most of us have not spent serious time learning HOW to think, by doing a major like philosophy or mathematics. Why is this particularly important now? It’s because we have a new team member – AI, that works harder than we ever can, and thinks differently to us. If we understand how WE think, and consciously develop new ways of thinking using probability, we can maximize our own contributions and complement the work done by our machine colleagues.

    A big thank you to the team at the 100 Year EdTech Project. They are doing important work which I think will help ensure that education helps all of us learn and grow as technology changes our world.


    Becky Farone was the most recent guest on our Humanity Working podcast. Since recording, I’ve been thinking about our conversation quite a lot, mainly because of Becky’s focus on helping people design their careers.

    My main takeaway from the conversation is that if we think we know what we want to be when we grow up, we are probably kidding ourselves. Becky explained beautifully how she kidded herself (and how it cost her $80,000) plus the work that goes into understanding what comes next. I’d recommend listening to the whole conversation, which you can hear on your favourite podcasting platform, or by just watching here.

    Work Buddies

    Video Length: 1 minute 45 seconds

    Flexible work can be amazingly freeing, but it can also be a lonely pursuit. Getting a work buddy is one way you can make it feel less…lonesome.

    Check out this weeks video below to find out more:

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