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Two steps forward, one step back

Two steps forward, one step back

Driving through the Italian countryside on the way back to Rome’s Ciampino airport, an ancient aqueduct becomes visible through the trees. Based on the few glimpses I could gather, its arches span hundreds of metres. Complete, it may have stretched for miles. Two thousand years ago, we had the technology to pipe fresh water from the mountains to our towns.

It’s hard not to look at the wonders of the Roman empire and conclude that the rate of our technological progress as a species has been uneven at best. Slow, slow, quick quick, slow. Sometimes even backwards.

Imagine if that hadn’t been the case. Imagine if every step forward had become the firm footing for the next step. If we hadn’t faltered but accelerated our understanding. Shared, taught, and applied each new piece of knowledge. Imagine where we might be now.

Maybe the answer is in ruins. After all, some of those quick-quick periods were times of war. But maybe we would be a space-faring species, based from a planet of abundance powered by clean energy. Maybe quantum physics and genetics would have been the scientific challenge of the last century, or even earlier.

We can’t change the past, but we can change the future and ensure that we keep advancing, and doing so in the right direction. Do we really want our descendants to be looking back the ruins of the 21st century and wondering why it took us so long to get to there from here?


Taking a break

This will be the last new blog you will read from me for a couple of weeks, and maybe the last one you will read here. I’ll probably still be writing but I need to give my marketing agency a fixed set of content to migrate to my new website, which will be going live in a short while. If you want to ensure you keep receiving my posts, head over to this link and fill out your details.

The new website will bring together all my various online presences into a single platform and will be the basis for the continued growth of my activities in the Applied Futurism arena, where I’m pleased to say demand just seems to keep growing.


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Save your career. Get a new hobby

Save your career. Get a new hobby

Up there with the most frequent questions I am asked is this: “What should I be teaching my children to give them the best chance of a good career in the future?” Or for those people who have 20+ years of their career ahead, and who are concerned about the rise of robots, the question is “What should I be learning to save my career?”

I have a stock answer to this that I’ve articulated a few times on this blog. In short, I believe that the more processes and interactions we automate and digitise, the more value we will place on uniquely human capabilities. And that throughout our careers we will need to adapt frequently to changing markets, skill needs, and opportunities. I also think we are increasingly likely to have portfolio careers as the traditional job that employs you nine to five, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 years, increasingly looks like a thing of the past.

Given these beliefs, what are the core skills that are most important? The Three Cs:

Curate: discover and qualify information

Create: synthesise something new

Communicate: listen and share ideas with others

The question is, how do we develop these skills? We’re all busy people. The answer, I reckon, is to get a new hobby.

Hobbies are fantastic contexts for self-driven learning, a critical component of the ‘curate’ skillset. You need to identify the gaps in your knowledge and abilities, source and absorb materials to help you overcome those gaps.

Hobbies are also often creative. I don’t mean that we all need to take up painting or writing. Sports are creative. Coding is creative. Games are creative. The critical creative skills are more about practice, repetition and refinement than they are about lightning-strike great ideas.

And hobbies almost inevitably involve communication, whether you are chatting on shared interest forums, strategising with team mates, or negotiating at a swap meet.

Personally, I took up rollerskating two years ago. It was a humbling experience, being surrounded by kids — my own included, having introduced me to the sport — who knew more than I did. It has taken an enormous amount of practice, and a few injuries (including a broken rib and a very squishy elbow) to get to the stage where I feel pretty competent at a few tricks.

I’ve learned by watching others, watching YouTube videos, and practicing, over and over again — creative iteration. It has been a great exercise for these critical future skills, as well as for my general fitness. But perhaps just as important is that humbling. One of the most valuable things to be reminded of, is just how little we know outside of our own domains.

If you want to improve your future career prospects, go and get yourself a new hobby. And get humbled.

Tom Cheesewright