I recently read the book summary of Life 3.0. It describes a future, called Life 3.0, where artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a dominant force in the world. At that time, there is a possibility that AI would rule the world because it has superintelligence that far surpasses human intelligence.
It’s still a distant future, but recent advancements have made it closer and closer. Through a field known as machine learning, for instance, computers can now learn to perform a task without being taught before. They can learn from experience and get better by themselves. Currently, this only applies to specific fields (e.g. playing chess or translation), but over time it could be applied to multiple fields at once.
What about the near future?
In the near future, the threat of AI is how it endangers jobs through automation. More and more jobs can be replaced by machines as they become more intelligent. The Economist recently published a special report about it.
You might think that your field is safe, but it’s better to prepare yourself before it’s too late. You should make yourself future-proof.
How can you do that?
I believe that the key is being a versatilist: someone who can be a specialist in a particular discipline, while at the same time be able to change to another role with the same ease. Versatilists have the ability and flexibility to transform themselves if necessary. When Thomas Friedman used the term in his book, it was applied mainly to the danger of outsourcing. But I think it’s now more applicable to the danger of automation.
Rather than betting yourself on just one possible future, train yourself to be able to create alternative futures for yourself. That way if one future doesn’t work for you, you have the ability to create alternatives for yourself.
Here are some tips on making yourself future-proof.
1. Be curious.
Friedman used the term Curiosity Quotient and said that it’s essential. Why? Because if you are curious, you will be interested in multiple fields. You will love to learn new things. Instead of considering learning a burden, you will consider it an adventure. Curiosity is essential to becoming a versatilist.
2. Learn how to learn.
Because you need to constantly learn new things, knowing how to learn is the most important skill you need to master. It’s the meta-skill that allows you to learn other skills quickly.
3. Invest in self-education.
There is no other choice: you need to keep educating yourself. So invest in your self-education: buy books, take courses, and more. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
4. Have a community.
I wrote about the importance of community before. If you become a versatilist, having a community is even more important. Why? Because your work identity may change a lot, so you need something else to root yourself in. It can also give you the support you need as you go through the changes.
5. Build your network.
While your community is about the people you spend a lot of time with, your network is about your acquaintances. It gives you the strength of weak ties. It could give you more opportunities than your community because the people there are more diverse. So build your network before you need it.
If you apply the tips above, you will make yourself future-proof. There will still be challenges, but you will survive and even thrive.
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