#future

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How I prepare for the future

These days I think a lot about the future and where we're going.

It is really exciting to think about self-driving cars, robots or hoverboards. But it is also really scary to think about all the implications this brings to the economy and life in general.

When I started university in 2008, getting out of college with a degree in computer science meant you were the king of the world: great salary, tons of job opportunities and a growing industry.

Now, almost 8 years later, I read multiple articles saying that the basic programmer is getting outsourced more and more. Programming doesn't pay as much as it used to (although there are still tons of jobs around and the industry is growing as a whole), mainly because the competition is stronger than before (paradoxically). I believe the idea of universal income becomes stronger every day and I support it where I can. Unfortunately, I think most people don't see the implications of the future yet and are scared of additional costs. But that's another topic.

So I started to think about a process on how I can be prepared for the future, as best as possible. Be it for survival or out of simple interest. Here's what I came up with.

I want to put myself out of business - Gary Vaynerchuk

1. Check out interesting books that discuss the status quo and the future

In my case, I've looked at 5-6 books about the future and looked at all the topics they discussed. Ultimately, I really liked "The Industries of the Future" by Alec Ross. It gives a great overview, incl. introduction, to a lot of important developments in technology. That coupled with some deeper articles on interesting topics, as well as recommendations (at the end) of other books helps you to get an overview.

2. Cross-reference this knowledge with what thought leaders are saying

Now that you have a basic understanding of what's going to be relevant in the future, compare the ideas with what thought leaders are saying. A few that come to my mind in this regard are: Gary Vaynerchuk, James Altucher, Pieter Levels (aka levelsio), Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss (there are many more but the idea is to strengthen the base).

3. Have an action plan for all areas that will be relevant

You probably have around 5-10 topics that are going to be relevant at this stage. Write all of them into a spreadsheet. Now add three columns, titled step 1, step 2 and step 3.

Instead of steps you could also use timelines, but I haven't found the perfect ones yet, especially since some technology advances faster than others. I think something along the lines of 6 months, 18 months and 3-5 years makes sense, YMMV.

4. Start with the first steps

Now that you have the action plan and the necessary steps to stay relevant and knowledgeable in that area, start putting it into work. If it's a book you need to read, put it onto your list and write down when you're going to tackle it. If it's a topic you need to learn about, go research some tutorials or courses on the book. Meet the relevant people, etc. Sometimes you see it as only a financial opportunity, so try to estimate how much money is needed and how you can invest in it (there are multiple ways).

5. Do this every 6-12 months

I've learnt from James Altucher that future trends don't come and turn everything on its head within 6 weeks. It's more like 6 years. Or 60 years. Entirely dependent on the type of technology and tons of other variables, chances are that it will creep up on you slowly, so you have to revisit your spreadsheet from time to time to adjust, add and detract certain trends.

So what have I learnt?

So far I've come up with these areas of interest:

  • eSports
  • 360 Video
  • Virtual Reality
  • Genomics
  • AI/Robotics/ML
  • Digital Finance/Money/FinTech
  • Big Data

Depending on my level of understanding of the topic, I either put a book on my reading list or looked for certain tutorials to try my hands on the technology. In some cases I also calculated the time and money needed to invest in the technology.

Skills that won't be replaced as fast (Spring 2016)

There are three important skills that you need to have in order to stay competitive in the work force and a globalized economy.

  • Languages, both technical and normal

Somebody has to program these robots and algorithms, so understanding how the technology works and how you can program it, is essential. Plus, the economy is getting more globalized by the second. This means, that different countries will start to dominate different industries. Being able to speak those languages, will put you into great demand or position of opportunity.

  • Idea Creation / Ideation

James Altucher likes to call today's economy "the idea economy" and I think it makes sense. While you can outsource knowledge and skill, you can't outsource creativity and ideas. One way to stay sharp is to think about ideas all the time, not even necessarily for businesses, but stuff that you're using, that you'd like to have, books that you'd like to write or read, anything you can imagine, think about ideas on how to improve it or change it for the better.

  • Pattern recognition

"You see, but you do not observe" is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes quotes and it is very applicable to today's time and to the future. Being able to see patterns and opportunities is and will become increasingly more important with time. Now I'm not talking about certain patterns in a huge dataset, but cross-platform patterns. My economy teacher in high school used to say Intelligence is linking knowledge and I think this is exactly what is meant by pattern recognition.

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