If you thought of flying cars, genetically modified superhumans and cyborgs with computer controlled bionic limbs, you’re wrong.
Humanity is stepping into a future so far removed from what we’ve seen before, that knowledge, institutions and systems we’ve developed over our entire existence are threatened.
In such a rapidly changing future, there’s not much one can do to prepare — but Yuval Noah Harari has some crucial tips anyway.
If you don’t know of him — Yuval Noah Harari is an award-winning historian, philosopher, author and overall smart dude. He’s written books such as Sapiens and Homo Deus which approach humanity through a unique perspective (even Barack Obama gave him a shoutout).
The raw skills and identities we once built and prided ourselves upon are crumbling in the future. To keep up with the rapid change, we must change some of the principals of our current standards.
This advice has personally changed the perspective I approach my future from. Yuval’s advice has let me approach my life and where it goes at a macro level, which I’ve found really helpful in understanding the impacts of my long term goals.
The Most Important Skill To Learn Is The Ability To Reinvent Yourself — Again, and Again, and Again
To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent yourself again and again.
For as long as we humans can remember, things have always changed, but haven’t changed that fast. You could get a job, build an identity, develop a character and grow old with it.
Well, things are slightly different now (more like drastically). By 2050, this difference is going to be simply astounding.
Super-intelligent exponential technologies — think AI, Blockchain, VR — will have the power to replace everything we think matters right now. Judicial systems, the medical industry, armed forces even designers will face disruption — likely be usurped by a super smart program.
Alright, so what we’ve concluded is that nothing you truly build for yourself will last for life. At least not in the future that lies ahead of us.
So what can you do to brace for such a future?
Prepare to reinvent yourself. Again and again. We will live in a future so extraordinarily different and rapidly changing from our current society that it will be essential to have an adaptable individuality to accustom to the needs of our time and protect ourselves from becoming slaves to the technology we had originally developed to make our lives easier.
Steps I’ve taken
- Started looking at my own future at a macro level. This has allowed me to critically scrutinize my long term goals.
- Reinvent myself — to a certain extent — to the person I want to be and what truly provides the most value.
At the age of 15, most people my age already constantly reinvent themselves. You probably know this through the term “phases”. I’ve had soccer, Fortnite and meme phases. Looking through a macro level, I’ve found ways to reinvent myself to becoming a polymath or machine learning developer instead of being a typical high school gamer or meme-lord (I still love Fortnite and edgy memes, but it doesn’t define my identity).
Learn To Let Go Of What You Know Best, And Get Comfortable With The Unknown
To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and learn to feel at home with the unknown.
In a future where the knowledge we have can be obsolete faster than we learned it, letting go of our existing knowledge is key to reinventing ourselves and better adapting to a changing world.
Dismissing the assumptions we make on the world from the knowledge we gather is hard. It’s basic nature to have conviction in the knowledge we’ve absorbed ourselves.
Why on earth would I leave behind everything I’ve done and learnt?
At this point, we have no idea what to expect in the future.
The human race is going to have to face scenarios that no one has come across in the history of our planet (other than sci-fi writers, possibly).
We’re going to need to pave a path for ourselves, and to do so there is a need to know how to leave behind your existing knowledge and travel into the unknown (all while keeping your sanity).
Steps I’ve Taken
- Learnt to accept my mistakes and assumptions. Stepping into the complex mathematics behind Machine Learning was hard at first for someone who’d never imagined math beyond y = mx+b. The only way I was truly able to approach academic papers and concepts was to let go of the knowledge I thought made me a very “smart” person — which was just basic information every sophomore learns in high school and maybe a little bit of extra surface level knowledge in various fields — and prepare to learn entirely new concepts and information.
- Let go of the excuse to learn something hard. Instead of dismissing things that I’ve found complicated or hard, I’ve started to enjoy learning these things. Its kind off like working out — when you first start you really don’t want to do it — but once you’re done it feels really good.
Don’t rely on adults too much. They mean best for you but don’t always fully understand the world
In the past, it was a relatively safe bet to follow the adults, because they knew the world quite well, and the world changed slowly. But the 21st century is going to be different. Because of the increasing pace of change, you can never be certain whether what the adults are telling you is timeless wisdom or outdated bias.
The advice you get from your parents could be completely different that of your teacher — or favourite rapper. No matter how different the future gets, in your lifetime you’ll continue to get advice from other adults.
It’ll be an invaluable gift to yourself if you learn to apply the correct advice to your life. In the future — and even today — you will be barraged with immense amounts of information.
The ability to absorb the information you need to adapt yourself to the changing world will benefit you far more than the ability to take in the most amount of information.
As Yuval says about the future in 21 Lessons For The 21st Century,
In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.
Steps I’ve Taken
- Learnt to take be critical of the advice I’ve gotten. I look at the impacts of specific advice, on its effects on my long term goals.
When a teacher tells me to write a test instead of missing it to go to a large technology conference, are they giving advice that will help me do well for my overall future or my future in their class?
- Seek and apply the timeless wisdom that has been passed over to me over generations to my life while being aware of it. Respect others, give back to those in need, take care of yourself and your loved ones… the list goes on. There’s a reason that wisdom our faiths and cultures have survived as long as they have. No matter how much the future changes, it has come upon me to apply the wisdom I’ve been taught in my own life to be the person I aspire to be.
Hack Yourself — Get To Know Your Own Operating System
If you don’t know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life.
Relying on adults won’t help in the future. Technology won’t do you one better either. Technology can be great at getting you what you want in life. But with future technologies smarter than you, there’s a point where if you do rely on it too heavily technology will enslave you.
It is extremely important to get to know your own organic system and emotions. As Yuval puts it, there’s a race to get to manipulate your organic system and emotions. Coca-Cola, your smartphone and Google will all be trying to get there first.
It’s essential that you get to know yourself, what you are and what you want in life before its controlled by someone else.
Steps I’ve Taken
- Hacked my own body:
I’ve recorded my optimal sleep times, optimal work hours, my caloric intake and optimal workouts.
This has helped me get my life more organized and find what things my body finds useful (such as sleeping early, waking up early to work) and the things that slow me down from achieving my goals (mainly social media and video games for me).
It’s important to know that everyone’s bodies are different, our sleep times, optimal foods and workouts all differ. That’s why we should find out more about ourselves to benefit ourselves.
- Taken a break from technology. We’re always attacked by information on our phones, it never lets our minds truly rest. Shutting off my cellphone or going completely offline for a couple of hours every now and then has helped settle my mind and let it rest without constant stress or excitement.
The future will be different. Wayyy different. Because we don’t know a bit about what it’ll look like, there’s not much we can do to prepare for this future.
4 helpful lessons Yuval Noah Harari does gives for you to prepare for this future are:
- Prepare to constantly Reinvent yourself
- Learn to let go of your pre-existing knowledge and venture into the unknown
- Don’t rely on adults too much. Learn to filter the advice you do get flooded with.
- Get to know yourself and your purpose before its manipulated by others for their own benefit.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article:
- Make sure to show support by sharing and dropping some claps 👏
- Stay updated with me through Linkedin
- Follow me on Medium for more articles like this!