What do you think that we should learn today, more than ever? Our civilization is passing through an exponential evolutionary process, that is leaving us with more questions, than with clear answers.
Do we have the power to adapt to the new world that is being created every day around us? What can we teach the following generations in order for them not to pass through the same process of self-discovery as we did?
What are the skills which the man that is born today will have to possess for him to function at a higher level in the world 50 years from now?
Evolution and estrangement
The humankind is facing changes like no other before, at an individual and collective level, for which we have not been trained and we do not have the possibility to foresee in order to obtain some answers. All the stories that we believed until now, all the attitudes and personality traits appear not to offer us any kind of vision of the future anymore. Nothing we knew is working anymore.
What we didn’t know then and what we know now
Yuval Noah Harari in his bestseller-ul Homo Deus says that it’s possible that certain people of the future will live longer lives than today, maybe even the human body will go through transformations we cannot envision as possible now, because of the biotechnology. And, most likely, what our children are learning today will be irrelevant in 2050.
He believes that most schools today are focusing a great deal on the acquisition of mechanical information, thing normal in the past when the lack of information was obvious and even the one that existed was manipulated and censored.
If you lived, for, for example, in Romania in the XVIII century it was almost impossible to know more about the world you were living in. There was no radio, no tv, no newspapers. Even if you were an intellectual and you had the capacity to understand the information, you didn’t have a source for it, besides religious texts and novels. The exact same thing was true if you were living in almost every other part of the world of that century.
Once the schools appeared all over the world, the basic information from mathematics, geography, history, the possibility for your child to learn how to read and write has represented a major improvement of the human life.
Now in the XXI century, we are bombarded with all kind of information, that we can access instantly.
On the other hand, even though you are at a click away from anything you want to know, there is so many contradictory information that it has become very difficult to make the difference.
The acquisition, the understanding and the application of human knowledge represent the basis of the culture of the humankind. We are designed to discover, explore, create.
According to the scientifical research, the human being is eager to know more and more, today. And we collect this information through the visual cortex which is connected to almost half of our brain. You can say that we are visual creatures, we are explorers of all the surrounds us and all that we believe possible. The future is just a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.
Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer once said “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”, a phrase that describes in a poetical way, our situation. The human being is the only creature in the world who has this extraordinary curiosity and desire to know more.
Education. Evolution or transformation?
So, the logical reasoning would be that the last thing we need to do, as parents or teachers is to give children more information. They have so much already, too diverse and to which they have access much faster than ever.
Instead, what our children would really need is the ability to sort and understand the information, to know which is important and which is not, to learn how to arrange it in order to see the bigger picture.
If we think about it, this was the initial goal of the modern education system, says Harari. Parents and teachers alike showed children different kind of information with the purpose of teaching them how to think for themselves, freely. Schools and teachers alike thought that giving them the freedom of information would empower them with supernatural abilities. And if a generation will not have the capacity to do this, it will always be the next generation. If the modern education system has fulfilled this role, we can judge by ourselves.
Can we find meaning?
If the current generations cannot succeed in finding a meaning to their own lives based on the present vision of the world, it’s very possible that this opportunity will no longer exist for those to come, because the probability of having no control whatsoever over what’s going to happen in the world of tomorrow is higher and higher. As we can observe all over around us.
In the same time, most schools concentrate their resources in order to train the children with pre-determined skills, like solving equations, reading by the clock, creating chemical reactions in a lab, conversations in different languages and many, many others.
But, because we don’t have any kind of idea of how the world or the labor market will be in 50 years time, we will never know what to teach our children in order to do well in those times. Perhaps, the majority of the information learned and programmed now in the school system, will be useless then, because the likelihood that the algorithms and software that are being designed today will be capable of solving equations infinitely faster then the children or to translate in a perfect way in a manner of seconds any information from any language.
And the brilliant minds, you would wonder? Those people that have a perfect balance between their cognitive abilities and their creative ones, they will for sure be able to adapt to those times, won’t they? Maybe the following example will clarify this question.
The composer and programmer, David Cope has become famous after writing and improving an algorithm that composed a musical symphony, actually a number of albums with symphonies. Maybe this isn’t strange at all so far, but in a test in which music connoisseurs have listened to this symphony in parallel with those of Bach and Mozart, without knowing what they were listening to, they all have ranked the symphony composed by Cope’s algorithm like the most creative and moving piece of music.
He explains that this experiment of musical intelligence has been more of an analytical problem than an inspirational one and that, actually, we are witnessing a sort of artificial creativity that will perfect itself in the following years.
So, it appears that the geniuses will not be advantaged either, in this future world.
New superhuman abilities
So, what should we teach our children? The psychologists and the educational experts think that it’s mandatory to know these four essential factors for the future world:
- Critical thinking and the ability to solve a problem with the data available
- The capacity to cooperate, to get organized and work together
- The capacity to adapt to different situations and stimuli
- Creativity and imagination
More so, they say, the schools should not insist so much on the cognitive factors, but on the development of the basic skills of life, those of adapting to rapid shifts, to learn new things all the time, no matter the age and that of maintaining their mental integrity when facing situations they are not familiar with.
For a child born today, to be able to adapt to the future world, it will not be enough for him to produce new ideas and to have the capacity to invent new services and products, but more than anything else, he will have to possess the ability to reinvent himself over and over again. Because, at the pace at which the things are changing nowadays, not only the political, social and economic systems will transform, but, more than anything, the meaning of „human being”.