The Value of Uniquely Human Skills

To prepare children for a future where AI plays a significant role, it has become critical to focus on developing certain uniquely human skills and abilities that complement and enhance what AI can do.
Of course, the idea of “beating” AI is not necessarily about competing against AI in an adversarial sense. Instead, it’s about ensuring that our young humans can grow up to contribute meaningfully and thrive in a world where AI technologies are increasingly prevalent.
AI excels at tasks that involve data analysis, pattern recognition and repetitive tasks, but there are quite a few uniquely human skills that will give children a competitive edge.
But equally importantly, the development of these abilities is essential for children to truly achieve their potential and live a connected, meaningful and purposeful life.
In 2016, the World Economic Forum released this list of essential skills for today’s students.
In 2023, the list hasn’t changed that much – these are the qualities that humans bring to the world. 
Let’s explore some of those qualities – mental tools, skills and mindsets – now (in no particular order):
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Developing children’s abilities to think critically, analyze situations and solve problems is crucial.
AI can provide solutions based on existing data, but humans need to formulate the right questions and interpret results.
Analytical thinking enables differentiation between reliable sources and biased information, an increasingly important skill nowadays.
Cognitive Abilities and Abstract Thinking
AI is good at tasks that can be broken down into clear steps but struggles with tasks that require deep understanding of context.
In contrast, humans with the highest levels of intellectual and creative abilities excel at dealing with abstract concepts and ambiguous, complex problems.
Developing the ability to analyze and understand complex ideas, intricate situations and problems with non-standard solutions, and formulate holistic solutions, is an essential skill.
Creativity and Innovation
AI is not inherently creative or curious – it can replicate patterns and generate ideas based on existing data, but true creativity involves thinking beyond the known, and questioning and making connections that haven’t been made before.
Little humans need to develop the ability to build solid mental models of how the world works, in order to identify opportunities for innovation, and think up and plan out creative solutions.
Emotional Intelligence (EI)
EI involves understanding and managing emotions, as well as empathizing with others.
Skills such as active listening, understanding non-verbal cues and effectively communicating emotions are essential in human-AI collaboration.
Having a deep awareness of the big picture, understanding different needs and points of view, and the ability to consider the potential impact on society, are all critical for making responsible decisions and finding win-win solutions.
Adaptability, Flexibility and Learning Agility
The rapid pace of technological advancement means that job roles and industries can change quickly.
Teaching little humans how to adapt to new situations, learn new skills, and remain open to change is invaluable.
They need to develop cognitive flexibility and a growth mindset, as well as have the willingness to learn. In our rapidly changing world, the ability to learn new skills quickly and effectively is a significant advantage.
Teaching children how to learn, unlearn and relearn is crucial.
Collaboration and Teamwork
AI can process information and perform tasks independently, but human collaboration and teamwork often lead to innovative breakthroughs.
Effective collaboration and teamwork involve understanding diverse perspectives, negotiating and building consensus.
Children must learn how to work effectively in diverse teams, leveraging each member’s strengths.
These are some of the most in-demand skills for employees nowadays and it’s not difficult to see why. Almost all great achievements have happened as a result of a collaboration of great minds.
Communication Skills
Effective communication involves attentive listening, conveying ideas clearly, persuading and questioning, with mentors, peers and experts.
These skills are essential in multiple fields where human interaction and understanding nuances are key.
Fundamentally, little humans need to learn how to understand others and how to make themselves understood.
A strong learning motivation means challenges are embraced and setbacks are viewed as opportunities for growth.
Resilience and perseverance are valuable qualities when facing AI-powered systems that may not always yield desired outcomes. AI lacks the intrinsic motivation to improve itself of course.
Children who are motivated to learn will consistently seek opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge, enabling them to outperform AI in areas that require ongoing growth.
Learning how to pay attention is essential for remaining adaptable, innovative, and being capable of addressing complex challenges that AI might struggle with.
While AI can process massive amounts of data quickly, it can still miss subtle nuances and context that humans can grasp.
It is really important that little humans learn how to pay attention, observe details, focus, and plan and manage their own attention and behaviour, in order to excel in many domains and even surpass AI capabilities.
Entrepreneurial Mindset
Encouraging creativity and innovation, practising calculated risk-taking, and developing an entrepreneurial mindset empower humans to look for new opportunities and adapt to the evolving job landscape.
Entrepreneurship involves a mix of creativity and strategic thinking that AI can’t replicate entirely.
By focusing on introducing and developing the above skills in a developmentally-appropriate way for your child, you can position them to thrive in a world where AI is a powerful tool but human skills continue to play a vital role.
These are uniquely human skills, that will always open doors to a connected, purposeful and meaningful life.
So how do you ensure your child develops these uniquely human skills to the highest levels?
You can read our suggestions for this in Beating AI – Part Two.

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