Although the capabilities of computers are still far from desirable, the tasks of people at work are changing, and with it the requirements for employees. The skills that will definitely come in handy in the future are trying to be determined by Kevin Roose, a well-known journalist and columnist for The New York Times.
His book, Resilient to the Future. 9 Rules for People in the Age of Machines” was published in Russian by the MIF publishing house. With his permission, Lifehacker publishes an excerpt from the second part.
Recently, I decided to make my own list of skills that will be highly valued in the future. I call them “the human qualities of the machine age.” On the one hand, these are not entirely technical skills, and on the other hand, they are not the same as those acquired in the study of classical humanitarian subjects like philosophy or Russian literature.
These are practical skills that, in my opinion, will help anyone – both a small child and an adult – to maximize their advantage over machines.
1. Attention guard
Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who popularized the term emotional intelligence, believes that one of the key skills of the future will be the ability to focus – to control your attention.
He writes that the ability to focus and disconnect from external distractions will help you navigate the rapidly changing future and adjust to the ups and downs that we are likely to experience in the face of technological change.
According to Goleman, those who are good at focusing are less prone to confusion, are better able to remain calm in crises and maintain balance despite the emotional outbursts of life. I prefer the term “attention guard” to “focus” because it reflects that today, when most of us try not to succumb to distractions, we protect our attention from the attack of various external forces: social network applications, breaking news notifications, a cavalcade of messages and emails that try to distract us and throw us off course.
There are proven ways to train the mind to teach it to guard attention more carefully. One of them is meditation; studies show that even a short, eight-minute session can reduce distraction. Breathing exercises, walks in nature, and prayer also help.
For me, reading turned out to be the best ritual of attention protection: putting the phone away, I sit down and for a long time, without interruption, I read real, printed books. But it wouldn’t hurt for scientists to get more focused on attention-guarding tactics, given how much mental energy and money goes into distracting us.
The ability to guard your attention is usually referred to as a productivity hack: it is a way to get more done with fewer distractions. But learning to protect oneself from the influence of forces seeking to seize it and direct it in the other direction is necessary not only for economic reasons.
Continuous concentration is a prerequisite for acquiring new skills and fully communicating with people.
It is necessary for self-exploration and the development of a positive self-awareness that can withstand the impact of machines. After all, as the historian Yuval Noah Harari argues , if the algorithms are better than you yourself at understanding what is happening inside you, then power will pass to them.
2. Assessment of the situation
I was recently listening to a lecture by Indeed.com Chief Economist Jed Kolko, who made a surprising suggestion about what group of people are well prepared for the future. LGBTQ people who have had to hide their sexuality may do particularly well in the era of AI and automation, as many of them are experienced in the subtle social maneuvering that requires a high level of emotional intelligence.
“The skill that comes from having to hide one’s sexuality — the ability to soberly assess the situation — is not one that can be found in any list of professional skills, but it can serve well in any workplace,” Kolko said.
Extending Kolko’s point, I would suggest that women and racial minorities, many of whom are forced to switch from one language to another day by day and change their behavior in white male- dominated workplaces, will also be in an advantageous position in the future.
The same instinct that causes a female leader to soften her tone so that she is not perceived as aggressive, and prompts a black employee to switch from African-American vernacular to competent English when presenting to a group, can be very useful in areas where subtle social interaction is required. flair.
Of course, it would be much nicer to live in a more just society where women and minorities do not have to look after themselves so carefully. But for those who get the hang of quickly calculating the biases and prejudices of others, the machine age may turn its good side. And for those of us who don’t have to switch from one language to another and constantly assess the situation, we need to try to develop these skills in other ways, because we will need them.
3. Ability to rest
One of my favorite places on social media is an Instagram* page called Shepherds of Slumber ( The Nap Ministry ).
It is hosted by Trisha Hersey, a black performance artist and poet from Atlanta. A few years ago, when Hersey was studying in the theology department at a university (the time when Black Lives Matter was being born), she found herself exhausted and exhausted by her studies and the widely circulated videos of police brutally suppressing black speeches.
And Hersey decided to try to sleep a little during the day. Appreciating the effect of a day’s rest on her state of mind, she took on the title of “Bishop of Sleep” and started the page “Shepherds of Slumber” to educate others, especially emotionally drained blacks, about the transformative effect of short breaks on sleep.
“Rest is productive,” Hersey said in an interview. When you rest, you are productive. I’m trying to rethink vacation and dissuade people from the fact that if you’re not ‘doing something’ in the conventional sense, then you’re worthless.”
Hersey believes that taking breaks for sleep and rest is not just self-care, but an act of resistance to the pressure of the dominant white race and capitalism and a step towards wresting black people from the culture of haste. Her Instagram* page is full of inspirational quotes such as “Rest is a practice of liberation” and “You are not a machine. Stop plowing.”
Although I am not Hersey’s target audience, I am deeply indebted to her for helping to reimagine leisure and to see that it is a matter of social justice and a skill needed for those who need energy to resist harassment and fight for a fairer future.
Our education system does not provide daytime naps for those who are past early childhood. However, the ability to rest – turn off the head, recharge the body – a skill that is becoming increasingly important for people of all ages. It helps prevent burnout and exhaustion, allows you to look at the problem from the side and see the whole picture, makes it possible to get out of the wheel in which we are spinning like squirrels and reunite with our true, human “I”. And many of us, myself included, would do well to get to grips with developing this skill.
In former economic conditions, when the value of a person was determined primarily by physical labor, daytime rest was usually considered an unaffordable luxury. But in the conditions of the new economy, where we will be different from machines in creative, human skills, we need to reconsider our attitude to the ability to rest, to understand that this skill is necessary for survival.
Science unequivocally confirms the connection between recreation and various human activities. Research conducted by neuroscientists of the Army Research Institute. Walter Reed and other leading institutions have shown that chronic sleep deprivation impairs the ability to make sound ethical judgments, reduces emotional intelligence, and makes it harder for a person to communicate with others. (And that’s not to mention the effects of sleep deprivation on physical health.)
In addition to teaching the art of relaxation, structural changes must be made to limit burnout and overwork on a larger scale.
Such measures are already being taken in other countries. In Japan, in 2019, the law limited overtime to forty-five hours a month and introduced fines for companies that do not comply with the restrictions. In France, a law that went into effect in 2017 gives workers a “right to disconnect” and shields them from being required to respond to emails after 6pm. In the United States, some companies have begun introducing mandatory vacations and turning off general emails on weekends.
Some universities are introducing experimental courses on the benefits of leisure for students. At Harvard, freshmen are now only allowed on campus if they complete an online course called Sleep 101, based on a popular seminar taught by noted sleep researcher Charles Czeisler. Brown, Stanford, and New York Universities offer students their own optional courses on sleep.
But such courses cannot be reserved only for students at elite universities. In an automated future where our contributions will be increasingly defined by major breakthroughs, inspired ideas, and emotional resilience, well-being will become even more important.
4. Digital insight
As a tech columnist and social media writer in particular, I’ve had to write a lot about disinformation and conspiracy theories in recent years. And I noticed, as you must have, that these days even very smart people sometimes find it difficult to determine what is true and what is false.
And this is no coincidence. Billions of people get news and information from social networks like Facebook*, Twitter and YouTube, which use algorithms for which the main thing is the information is catchy or not, and its truthfulness is not so important. The banner ads on these platforms are designed to resemble regular posts as much as possible, so most users can’t tell the difference between a paid post and a regular post when scrolling quickly.
And in those rare cases when information is examined for reliability, for example, next to the post of an ardent anti-vaccinator , a link is placed to the page of the World Health Organization with information on the safety of vaccines, the very fact of verification becomes material for new conspiracy theories, since social networks have already taught users not to trust the main authorities .
I don’t like the buzzword “media literacy” because it implies that people can be taught the only correct way to synthesize and interpret information from news and information sources, many of which contradict and oppose each other, and some of which are deliberately created by malicious media hackers to fool the audience and manipulate public opinion.
I prefer to speak of “digital insight,” a term that reflects the fact that learning to navigate the hazy, cluttered online information space is a never-ending process, changing as technology shifts and media manipulators learn new tools and platforms.
The lack of digital insight is turning into a real social problem.
In 2015, a group of Stanford scientists decided to evaluate the “online logic of the population”: more than 7,000 middle and high school students and students were asked to complete simple news literacy tests.
One test involved showing participants an article on financial planning sponsored by a bank and written by a CFO and asked if they thought it was from an unbiased and reliable source.
In another test, participants were asked to read two similar Facebook posts*—the first from the official Fox News page and the second from a fake one—and determine which one was genuine.
The results were depressing. More than 80% of participants mistook the ad text — a note paid for by the advertiser labeled “sponsored material” — as a genuine news article. And over 30% thought the fake Fox News Twitter account was more trustworthy than the official page.
“In every case and at every level, we were struck by the unpreparedness of schoolchildren and students,” the researchers wrote.
Lack of digital acumen is not just a problem for the young. One study found that during the 2016 election, people 65 and older were seven times more likely than younger people to share false information from the Internet on social media.
It is indeed difficult to recognize lies on the Internet, but in the future it will become even more difficult when algorithmically generated texts, realistic audio recordings generated by speech AI, and fake videos (“deepfakes”) created using machine learning algorithms become widespread.
There is no perfect solution to the problem of recognizing false information on the Internet, but specialists have already achieved some success. Monica Bulger and Patrick Davison wrote in a 2018 report from the non-profit organization Data & Society that, despite certain shortcomings of existing media literacy programs, some measures have shown their effectiveness.
For example, they talk about the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum, which became trending on Twitter after the white nationalist Unite the Right hate rally in Charlottesville in 2017. After this rally, when the Internet was teeming with extremely biased and false information, educators and organizations like the Anti-Defamation League published their recommendations under this hashtag in order to establish a constructive dialogue in educational institutions about racism, prejudice and tolerance.
For starters, this is good. But we urgently need to evaluate possible measures and understand which ones really work: not only help people stop accepting false information, but also return to reality those who believed in conspiracy theories or fell for a fake.
In a chaotic information environment, where everything is turned upside down, a person’s ability to separate facts from fiction will become a superpower.
Digital insight will enable people to better filter information, avoid being fooled by scammers and charlatans , and see clearly through the fog of today’s information wars.
5. Analogy ethics
Frank Chen, a venture capitalist who invests in AI startups, recommends that people who ask him what skills will be valued in the future read one unusual book. This work, titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, was written in 1986 by Reverend Robert Fulgum, and contains many simple life tips such as like “share everything you have”, “play by the rules”, and “clean up after yourself”.
Chen believes that the elementary skills that a child acquires before learning to read and write, which boil down to being good with people, acting ethically and considering the interests of others (all this I call ” analogue ethics”), are very us will be needed at a time when a person’s worth will be determined by his ability to interact with others.
I understand that a whole set of practical and technical skills needs to be layered on this foundation, but I agree with [Fulgum] that a foundation that has a lot of EI [emotional intelligence] and compassion and imagination and creativity is an excellent springboard for preparing people: doctors who know how to find the best approach to the patient; sales representatives who solve my problems, and not someone else’s; Crisis Counselors who understand when situations become critical—to a future in which machine learning becomes the main driving force and it is better for people with algorithms to work together.
Research shows that mastering the principles of analog ethics can have a positive impact on a person’s life.
In 2015, the results of a study were published that followed participants from kindergarten through early adulthood. Those who had well-developed prosocial, non-cognitive skills such as positivity, empathy, and the ability to manage their emotions were more likely to succeed in adulthood.
Another 2017 study found that people who were enrolled in “socio-emotional” programs as children were more likely to receive higher education, be less likely to be arrested as adults, and be less likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders , even after taking into account such indicators, as race, socio-economic status and location of the educational institution.
Young children, of course, have always been taught fundamental skills: they were taught to share, to play by the rules, to apologize. But now schools have begun to develop detailed programs whose main goal is to cultivate kindness.
The Good Program, a learning toolkit from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Healthy Mind Center, develops important mindfulness skills in preschoolers that help them notice their own emotions and those of others.
And the Origins of Empathy program, developed by Canadian educator Mary Gordon and developing empathy and emotional literacy in schoolchildren, is being used in fourteen countries, including the United States, South Korea and Germany.
Students also remember the basics of analog ethics. For example, at Stanford University, you can sign up for a “Get Kinder” seminar and study the psychology of altruistic behavior.
At New York University, students attending the “Real World” course develop an important skill for the future – the ability to adapt to change – by performing special exercises: they are looking for a way out of simulated difficult situations.
At Duke University, Pittsburgh University, and other top medical schools, oncology fellows can enroll in the Cancer Talk course and learn how to have difficult conversations with cancer patients.
This is a good start, and it is vital that opportunities for teaching analog ethics be expanded, not only to improve people’s lives, but also to prepare them for a future where communication and emotional skills will be one of the main values.
6. Ability to foresee consequences
In the future, the most valuable skills will be the ability to think about what the introduction of AI and machine learning systems can lead to, and to anticipate how these systems can affect society when they are given “free rein”.
We are now facing the unintended consequences of planetary-scale AI implementations like Facebook* and YouTube, and we see that the developers and directors who conceived them did not take into account that they could be misused, exploited and scammed.
I am convinced that most of these systems were not designed to cause harm.
Their creators and developers were idealists, it seemed to them that good intentions are more important than good results.
Due in part to these oversights and companies spending billions to fix their own mistakes, there is now a growing demand for people who can spot a flaw in a technological system before it leads to disaster .
Big tech companies are hiring experts in areas such as law enforcement, cybersecurity, and public policy who have hands-on experience and can anticipate potential consequences to evaluate new products and calculate the harm they can cause.
In the future, the need for such people will increase significantly, and not only developers will be needed. Perhaps, specialists who understand human psychology and are able to assess risks and probabilities will also be needed. (According to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, he regrets that in its early days, Twitter did not hire a game theorist and behavioral economist to help the company figure out how malicious people can use Twitter systems to harm.)
The ability to foresee the consequences will also be in demand in other, non-technological areas, as AI is introduced into more industries and creates more opportunities for errors.
Doctors and nurses will need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of medical imaging tools and understand why they are drawing the wrong conclusions. Lawyers will have to learn to look into the depths of algorithms used in courts and law enforcement agencies, and be aware that they can make biased judgments. Human rights defenders will need to understand how tools like facial recognition systems can be used to spy on and target vulnerable populations.
To teach future professionals to calculate the consequences, for example, you can introduce special subjects into STEM programs or come up with special ceremonies for initiation ceremonies into the profession.
In Canada, engineering students have been inducted into engineering ceremonies since the 1920s. Each of them is given an iron ring, which is worn on the little finger and reminds of the obligation to work for the good of society. Then the graduates take an oath and, first of all, undertake “from now on and henceforth not to endure and not to assert, not to be involved in the approval of bad work and low-quality materials.”
Imagine that Facebook* and YouTube programmers must go through a similar ceremony before releasing their first software component or training their first neural network.
Would this solve all the problems of society? Of course not. But maybe it would remind them that the stakes are high and that they need to be aware of how vulnerable users are? Quite possible.
“Resilient to the Future” will appeal to those who are interested in the development of technology and the future of humanity. Kevin Roose draws on scientific research and studies the latest discoveries in the field of AI.
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*Activities of Meta Platforms Inc. and its social networks Facebook and Instagram are prohibited in the territory of the Russian Federation.