The pace of change increases at an exponential rate, and over the next two or three decades, our civilization will undergo more change than in the last millennium – changes that may make entire institutions, including nations and religions, obsolete. By the end of this century, from artificial super-intelligence to life spans approaching two or three centuries, the human experience may be completely unrecognizable to today’s school children. We can’t possibly imagine what it will be like, any more than Gutenberg could imagine the Kindle Fire, or understand it without falling into utter despair.
As a sixty-something, it’s time for my cohort to make room for Millennials to step up and lead. And to you, I humbly offer some thoughts on how you might prepare to ensure that people do what is right, rather than what is merely possible. Much of what you will learn during your life will be obsolete before you master it. But learn, you must. Indeed, your children will likely experience foundational changes in a range comparable to those that led from Clovis points to COBOL, and riding that avalanche must be the natural thing for them to do.
Learn to be Skeptical
For the Boomers, an undergraduate degree was a differentiator. For Generation X, it became table stakes. For your generation, education is just a sunk cost and memorization is simply ridiculous. But if you have learned how to research, to think critically, to separate facts from mere assertions, “sponsored” search results, fake news and outright bullshit, and to unlearn everything that once mattered so much to you, then you are empowered to not-drown. Note that this doesn’t mean you will swim, or even float.
Learn to Change
Discipline is freedom. Your ability to change your behavior, whether it involves reinforcing the good things or stopping the bad ones, reshape your body or preserve your health is entirely a function of your ability to take disciplined action. Learn to be still, to be reflective, and to be mindful. But also learn to abandon old habits, design and adopt new habits, and continually assess the effectiveness of your behaviors in helping you achieve your goals. Embrace the process, and the results will follow.
Learn to Make Decisions
If you’ve learned nothing else from your games, you should know that hesitation is a decision, and often the wrong decision. Learn to quickly decide in the absence of certainty, to take assertive action with minimal actionable information, to recognize a bad decision, and to abandon it. Don’t just fail quickly – backtrack immediately. This means taking risk management to places we’ve never gone before – be sure to send us a selfie, if you’re still doing that sort of thing.
Learn to Influence
Yours is the collaborative generation – you swarm a problem in ways that make us Boomers feel like equestrian statues, covered in pigeon-shit. The next skill beyond collaborating is influencing. To influence opinion is to influence action. Just don’t be selfish. Don’t be exploitive. Don’t drive people to behave unethically, or cause them to regret falling under your influence, even if they have no idea who you are.
Learn to Lead
Once upon a time, in a world without social media or even telephones, we believed that we led by example. But in the last few decades, it’s become obvious that even odious examples could inspire followers. I don’t know how you should proceed here, because my generation’s thinking is simply invalid in this subject area. I ask only that you embrace equality, justice, kindness, and respect, and that you never abandon them for hate and tribalism.
Aside from these principles, I have little to offer you and can give no reason for you to feel like your world will be a better place – that will be entirely up to you. Peace be with you.