Jack Ma is one of China’s richest men, having founded Alibaba group — China’s Amazon. He has a very well informed view of the future. He recently spoke at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City. One of the things he discussed was how we teach our children. Here’s what he said.
“The way we teach … is going to be making our kids [lose] jobs [in] the next 30 years.”
According to him, there’s no reason to train our kids to do the things machines will be better at. So what is the human edge in the age of automation?
“We have to teach our kids to be very, very innovative, very creative. In this way, we can create jobs for our own kids.
The new technology will destroy a lot of jobs. But it will also create a lot of jobs.
The question is whether we are ready and whether we are qualified for these new jobs.”
Jack went on to say computers will never have mastery over “wisdom” or “love,” giving human a perpetual advantage. This is a valuable insight because it's made by a man whose making decisions now about what machines and people will be doing in the future. And those decisions will be informed by the best thinking.
I heard about Jack’s comments at an event run by The Pool, all about whether we can future proof our kids. One part of the conversation struck me particularly strongly.
There’s a lot of pressure on kids to achieve. To hit the grades. This means private tutoring to get them into the best secondary school. This means extra work on top of the school day. Throw in sports and friends and our little loved ones have little time left to themselves.
If you’ve ever hired anyone, you’ll know that passion, motivation and determination tend to trump most things. Skills and experience matter, yes, but they can be taught. Hunger and drive, which creates the motivation to solve problems and find better ways to do things, can’t be taught. You either want it, or you don't.
If we don’t give our children the time and space to find their passions, to find what really motivates them, they never will.
They'll fall back on the standard story of our society. Sixth form, university, graduate scheme, promotion, mortgage, kids. Then they'll wake up one morning and realise they are living a life they never chose, they don't enjoy, but by then they're trapped by a lifestyle that takes big sacrifices to change. One of the things that us grown ups find so inspiring about our children is their spirit. Their excitement about the things they love, their unbridled spirit. The standard story grinds that spirit into dust, because it was designed to. An education system designed to churn our people to be productive in an industrial age. The age that we don't live in now and will never go back to.
One of the panellists, Carolyn Parry, is completely changing career advice in higher education. Her work has earned her fellowships and advisory roles at many high profile institutions and government bodies. She told her story of moving from London to North Wales when her children were about eight.
Taking them out of the ‘pressure cooker’ of London gave her children their childhood back and extended it. Now in their 20’s her children have found and followed their passions. Her daughter is a pony shower and trainer whose career sees her travelling the world. Her son is fast going up the ranks of the military. Both very successful. Both following their passions because they both found their passions early. Not in their middle age, when knees start to go, when the weight of mortgages limit the options, when freedom's reserved for weekends and holidays.
The future I want for my children is one full of adventure, fulfilment, enjoyment and meaning. That can only happen if they have a strong sense of self, a clear enough idea of what matters to them in life. And that can only happen if they have the chance to discover and develop it, which means they need time and space.