22 November 2018

The Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years Isn’t What You Think

Some people imagine that it will be like this one time, big revolution, that—I don’t know—in 2025, 60% of the jobs are taken over. And then we have a couple of rough years in which people have to retrain, and new jobs appear, and some people don’t find new jobs and you have a large problem of unemployment. But then eventually things settle down into some new equilibrium, and we enter a new kind of economy.

The problem with this scenario is that it assumes that AI will kind of reach its maximum capacity by 2025, which is extremely far from the truth. We’re not even approaching the full capacity of AI. It’s going to just accelerate. So yes, we will have these huge changes by 2025—but then we’ll have even bigger changes in 2035, and even bigger changes in 2045, and people who have to repeatedly re-adjust to these things.

As individuals, what we can do is quite limited. If you are very rich and successful, then of course you have all the resources in the world to cushion yourself against these kinds of upheavals. But if you’re an average person then you will need a lot of help. I think the most important thing is to invest in emotional intelligence and mental balance, because the hardest challenges will be psychological. Even if there is a new job, and even if you get support from the government to kind of retrain yourself, you need a lot of mental flexibility to manage these transitions. Teenagers or 20-somethings, they are quite good with change. But beyond a certain age—when you get to 40, 50—change is stressful. And a weapon you will have [is] the psychological flexibility to go through this transition at age 30, and 40, and 50, and 60. The most important investment that people can make is not to learn a particular skill—”I’ll learn how to code computers,” or “I will learn Chinese,” or something like that. No, the most important investment is really in building this more flexible mind or personality. The Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years Isn’t What You Think