The future began in 2007 – here are the skills you need to survive and thrive in it

19 mars 2017 |

A decade ago, the world change in a way that was so significant, so big, that the human race has been changed forever. This is according to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who believes the change was so great it could be seen as the point where the past ended and the future began.

“In time, 2007 may be understood as the single greatest technological inflection point since Gutenberg invented the printing press.”

So, what was so big that it changed everything and how was it so subtle that no one noticed? Speaking at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai, Friedman explained that several developments in technology came together in a way which dramatically accelerated the speed of progress.

The year everything changed

2007 saw the launch of the iPhone, while Facebook and Twitter went global. Data turned into “big data” and cloud computing became a reality.

“This thing we call the cloud, this supernova became a giant new energy resource. It created an incredible release of energy into human beings and machines,” says Friedman.

Because of the financial crisis that hit in 2008, the social and regulatory framework which should have evolved with this rapid change in the power of tech instead stayed still, he says. We are only now grappling with the implications of these changes.

The columnist points out that now a single person can broadcast to millions on Twitter without another human being having to be involved – whether that’s the President of the United States or the head of ISIS.

The impact on education

The power of machines has changed dramatically with AI’s capabilities growing exponentially, while the flow of information is greater than we ever dreamed possible. This has profound implications for education.
Gone are the days when an education was about stocking up on ideas at school and college and then ‘spending’ that knowledge over a career.

“Now you want your students to be in touch with the flow. That’s where ideas and energy will come from,” says Friedman.

5 survival tips for living in the future

In the ‘Age of Acceleration’, as Friedman calls it, he believes we must completely change how we see learning.
“When I grew up I got to find a job. When you grow up you’ll have to invent a job,” is how he explains it to young people. It is about being flexible, passionate and always being willing to change.

These are Friedman’s tips for making yourself future-proof.

1. Live like a newly arrived immigrant

“New immigrants are paranoid optimists. They‘re optimists because they left somewhere bad to come somewhere they think will be better but they are always paranoid that it can be taken away from them in a second. We are all new immigrants to the age of acceleration.”

2. Think like an artisan

Artisans ensure that everything they produce is unique in some way. They carve their initials into their products. Pour your heart into whatever you make – that human touch is something that cannot be automated or digitised.

3. Think like a Silicon Valley start-up

Always think you’re in beta mode. “Always be in the state of learning, relearning reengineering, retooling, lifelong learning. Never think of yourself as finished because if you do I promise you, you are really finished.”

4. PQ + CQ > IQ

Passion and curiosity will always be of greater value than intelligence in a world which is always changing quickly.

5. Think like the waitress at Perkins Pancake House in Minneapolis

When Freidman orders pancakes at Perkins, the job of the waitress is simply to collect the order from the kitchen, add a spoonful of fruit on the side and take it to the table.

What she does though, is add extra fruit every time. She does the only thing she can do to enhance the customer experience. She thinks like an entrepreneur all the time. She works out how to make things even better.
Always look for the extra spoonful of fruit.

You can watch Thomas Friedman’s address to GESF 2017 here:


The Global Education and Skills Forum is taking place on 18th and 19th March 2017 in Dubai, UAE, with the theme of “How do we make ‘real’ global citizens?”