Robo Wunderkind guest author Natalia Kuznetsova-Rice reflects on the future of professions and the importance of finding the right tools to accompany your children in their exciting journey.
Discussing professions of the future with my friends, most of whom are parents, I’ve noticed a curious collision. While they admit that coding will be one of the most popular professions of the future and their children must have this skill to stay competitive, they themselves find it boring, difficult, and incomprehensible.
I’m not different from my friends. Working as a marketer in the AI industry, I still view coding as something that other people do. Those people are probably male, introverts, who prefer isolation, black turtlenecks, and lunches in solitude. But if I think for a moment longer, I realise that one of my female friends, who runs a nutrition blog in her free time, is actually a programmer, while another friend performs comedy sketches on stage when he’s not programming.
And then I witness my eight-year-old nephew put together a robot that acts on his commands. Wow, I wonder. Do modern kids view this whole coding thing differently? They can navigate YouTube at two-years-old; they’re confident iPad users at five; it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise they can assemble a working robot at eight. Maybe for this generation coding is not what other people do, but rather what people do? Biology knows that a human being acquires skills that will ensure his survival. In the past, an essential childhood skill was to shoot an arrow; more recently, schools children tried hard not to spill ink while writing. Today, shooting and not spilling ink are not exactly deal breakers when it comes to survival. But what is?
Many scientists and researchers have written about the skills that are crucial for survival in the 21st century. Their lists often resemble each other, but I find this one by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel the most comprehensive:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Creativity and innovation
- Cross-cultural understanding
- Communications, information, and media literacy
- Computing and ICT literacy
- Career and learning self-reliance
What’s interesting about this list is that critical thinking and creativity appear next to one other. The emergence of jobs that require the collaboration of both left and right brains – in other words, logical and abstract thinking – is an exciting phenomenon of our times. I’m noticing this shift already. In the past professionals preferred to identify solely with their profession; additional information about them seemed irrelevant. Today, attending tech events and observing startup founders, I can meet a lady who’s a data analyst but also a massage therapist; a gentleman who has computer science as his first degree and psychology as his second. The business world is starting to recognize that the most exciting breakthroughs happen at the intersection of the left and right brain.
What does it mean for your child? It means they have the freedom not to choose. They are free to pursue what they love and then see how they can combine their knowledge and passions to create something that never existed before. And these are not figurative words – according to Dell, 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet.
With the privilege of limitless opportunities to invent oneself comes the responsibility to reinvent. A slightly less exciting forecast about the future is that of jobs becoming obsolete quickly. It will require adding, mixing, and rearranging one’s skills. Adaptability and openness to change will be as crucial as specific skills.
How do we prepare our children for the world, which will have all these exciting but yet challenging features? As a mother, I ask this question myself a lot, and when I come across something like Robo Wunderkind, I am happy to see that someone else has answered these questions already.
The thing is, learning all these skills – coding, critical thinking, innovation, creativity, adaptability- with Robo Wunderkind doesn’t feel like learning at all. It just comes intuitively, like a natural thing that people in the 21st century do. When I played with it myself, I was amazed how effortless it felt. For the first time, I thought of coding not as a tedious brain-draining exercise, but as a thrilling adventure. And when a robot actually did what I programmed it to do…well, that made me feel almost as bright as my eight-year-old nephew! I never thought I would say that coding could be a joy, but it can. At least, with Robo Wunderkind.
We will never know for sure what the future holds for our children, and as parents, we have to rely on our best judgment and intuition. It’s great to have tools that understand this challenge and accompany us on this journey. Now, where’s my Robo?
Natalia Kuznetsova-Rice is an international marketing professional who lives in London with her six-year-old daughter and husband. She’s graduated from the Oxford Business School and worked for leading media and technology companies. When she’s not working, she studies cognitive science, writes articles, and practices ballroom dancing.