We go to school and university to build a foundation of basic knowledge, common references, and an understanding of the society we live in. In short: to prepare for the future. These are formative years in every individual’s life.

Could it be, though, that we’re currently learning about a society that we’re leaving behind – and learning skills that will soon be redundant?

We’ve been asking friends of Katapult Future Fest what’s the No. 1 skill we’ll need in the future. Before you read on, make a guess: What do you think most people answered? It wasn’t programming and computer science, though those are incredibly important too.

What we need, according to most of you, is empathy, compassion and soft skills. Curiosity, creativity and collaboration were also popular answers, as were critical thinking – and learning how to learn.

Basic knowledge about coding, how artificial intelligences (AI) work, or understanding the huge potential of blockchain beyond powering cryptocurrencies – this all needs to be a part of our education. Not all of us can, or need to be programmers, however. Understanding and being able to shape the AI-driven digital world is important, but the more you learn about it, the clearer you see that you can’t compete with the machines at their own game.

Instead, we should double down on those skills that are distinctly human. That’s why we’re not just entering the age of AI – but also, potentially, the age of soft skills. If we do this right, we can create a future where the automation of routine labor enables us to pursue more meaningful achievements. Is this what we’re teaching our kids at school, though, or to young adults at the university?

If not, then we may still be educating a 20th century workforce.

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