THE BLOG

Time to Make Way for the Young

15/01/2016 17:57 GMT | Updated 15/01/2017 10:12 GMT

What will be the biggest challenge of the 21st Century?

Not global warming, terrorism, the economy, the human population explosion, super bugs etc.

The biggest challenge of the 21st Century will be this: our capacity and our willingness to expand our brains and our minds. To be and to stay flexible. Open.

Multi-linguality, transnationality, multi-culturalism, transgender identity, cross border multi-nationality, dual, tri, quatri-citizenship, all these and more look set to be the factors and quality of the world by the end of this Century. Policy-makers are playing games with us if they lead us to believe that any of this can be stopped in any significant way. It cannot.

It is the young who know this most profoundly.

Rigid, by-rote "chalk and blackboard" curricula which does not allow for "intervention" and "disruption" (by that I mean the ability to change and the mechanisms to enable this), powered by students, teachers-and parents up to a point - will quite simply not be fit for purpose.

By-rote teaching without a built-in "disruption and intervention" template will be as useful to the digital natives who will be increasingly building our world, as a horse and buggy are to Lewis Hamilton.

Because it is the Millennials- that generation born between 1980 and 1995 - who will create the future. They already are.

Fluid, with multi-identities; allegiances and the ability to mask and morph themselves, this demographic Millennial Impact ranges from the useful of, say, a Mark Zuckerberg, to the evil of that 21st century Millenarian (end-of days ) cult: Daesh. The so-called "Islamic State".

Millennials must be listened to. They must be admitted - right now - to the top tables of industry; commerce; government; the arts. If they need to learn the "etiquette" of big business; government, etc. well, teach them. But put them in place.

Because our very humanity depends on them.

Right now we're be challenged by VR-virtual reality and by AI-artificial intelligence. AI, in very short order, will routinely cook our food, drive our cars, take care of us when we're sick. In time, it could be us.

This is a reality that I wrote about in my 2009 novel Entropy. Set in the not-too-distant future, the third part of "Entropy" tells the tale of a society in which robots have the ability to create empathy. They do this by re-creating the little, seemingly insignificant gestures of their masters: the certain way a person tilts the head, the particular raising of an eyebrow, a small smile. That robot is here now.

Robots can already talk to one another and are getting smarter and smarter. The young can help us stay ahead. They can help us understand and boost flexibility; inconsistency; nuance. They can help us defeat the category-bound, the closed border, the "a,b,c,d,e,f..." reality. Which in fact really only exists in our minds.

VR games are already starting to appear, but there is a shortage of content. "Content ", for example, is an area of job growth. But the young can't take advantage of it without learning at school how to be flexible; open.

The lack of flexibility, by the way, is the chief lament re: the Chinese economy. Chinese kids are smart and great at tests. But they don't prove to be particularly able to think out of the box. We have to be able to this-if we are to thrive and survive.

he fact that by 2027, 75% of the S&P 500 firms today will be replaced by new ones - that's 11 years from now, is a fact. We simply have to be ready-as a great jazz innovator once said: "to do something else".

Now humankind is on one of its great migratory arcs. We are a migratory species after all. We have to be ready to use the best of this Great Migration. We have to allow the young to lead. Any society that doesn't make it easy to be young, that emphasizes the old and the ageing becomes a gerontocracy. Look at Japan.

Of course, we must protect and cherish our elders.

Being civilized means that we make a good life, a safe life for the old and for ourselves, too, in our society whose average age.... is 41. But at the same time, we have to take care of the other end of the scale, too.

As a matter of urgency.