Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A lesson from "The Great Automatic Grammatizator": what should I be when I grow up?

Lately the kiddo has been pondering over what she wants to be when she grows up. I suppose this is triggered by class discussions as well as the big topic - DSA. Years ago, when I was interviewed for a magazine, I was asked the same question where I quipped "I just want her to be happy." Years on, my answer remains the same.

With Primary 5, I can feel the mounting pressure on academics. There's home work daily for the kiddo (usually an average of 2 subjects) and the time taken is usually around 1.5 to 2 hours. Frankly, on days where she stays back in school for CCA, Higher Chinese and then there's enrichment classes, she has very little wind down time. Hence my reply to her over these years still remains.

However, her reply has been "but most of my friends know what they want to be - lawyers, doctors, etc!"

I, too, have friends who are working with their kids on a said profession - training from young, DSA, etc., where activities have all been carefully planned for from young.

But my reply to her was "don't sweat over it."

Grades are no doubt, very important in our society. Though there's changes to the banding system where there's supposedly less emphasis on results, in my humble opinion, it will take a while before our society sees beyond grades. That's because many of us parents now were brought up where academics reigned and things for e.g. such "arts" was hardly heard of as a career choice then. Many may not catch on that the world has changed and is still evolving.

When I was recently asked by a friend what I am grooming the kiddo for, she was surprised that I do not have an answer or goal for the kiddo, while I was equally stumped by her question.

I suppose 2 reasons why I was stumped are:

(1) I have faith that God has a plan for all of us so most certainly, He has a plan for the kiddo.

(2) I see that there's a need to move beyond academics because the world our children will be working in is not like the one which we are in now or the one which we were brought up in. Some of these future jobs have not even been created. Take gaming for e.g., I cannot imagine how our parents can see that as careers 15 years back but just look at how "prized" programmers, animation artists, etc. are now. And with AI and machines taking on more jobs, what will there be left for our children?

Coincidentally, the kiddo devoured this book by Roald Dahl some weeks back when she was nursing a fever at home and was bored up to her ears. If you are not aware, Roald Dahl wrote stories not just for young children but he also wrote a series of stories for teenagers too. And interestingly, it was over this story that allowed me to explain the changing world to the kiddo. 

If you have not had a chance to read this story, here's a short synopsis. This dark story centres around a genius who created a story writing machine (Great Automatic Grammatizator) which quite literally "took over the world" as the machine was able to replace the human author by creating better stories (and stories which people want to read) and in turn creating a monopoly in the market place. Human authors were no longer needed but they were "bought" into this system where they "wrote" stories through the machines, deceiving the unsuspecting world. 

This prompted us to have a really interesting discussion if technology is a useful tool, the power of AI (is it too smart for us?) and the disruptions technology and machines can cause in the business world. So, with that, what skill sets are important for one to thrive in a different world 10 years down the road? What disciplines are less replaceable or still require that human touch? What are the jobs that can be replaced and so, what then are left for this generation? 

So, if you are still gunning purely for academics, this story may let you think otherwise. 

The key question should instead be "what skill sets should your child have as she powers through the future world?" 

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