Well hello there! So, it’s 2018 and I, like most people who follow the Gregorian calendar, have set aside time to think, reflect and ponder on what has passed, what will come and what we wish for 2018. I have also thought about this for my kids, because beyond ‘Getting a new pet’ after our fish died while we were away for Christmas, their 2018 bucket list is pretty much done (we got Timmy the Turtle on January 8).
Thinking about the kids this year however, has left me a little melancholy. Not only are they getting older, so my ‘parenting strategy’ has to change, I had a new year’s conversation with friends whereby we all admitted to never-before-felt hesitancies and an under-confidence with parenting in a ‘Brave New World.’
We all feel more uncertainties, not least because global politics are unpredictable (hence so are countries), but there are concerns about education, food scares, nuclear threats and here in Shanghai, inappropriate behavior at school. Sure, I know anything can happen anywhere and at any time, so I probably sound ‘old’ when I say the world our children inhabit is very different to the one we grew up in.
This is also true for the post-war generation who claimed the same. I truly believe we are ‘different’ because the internet and digital revolution not only changed our daily life, it also revolutionized the rate of change; my parents were flabbergasted that our 8 year old submits homework on an iPad, which apparently explains why her penmanship isn’t great. (The said 8 year old had to ask me what ‘penmanship’ was).
My point is, not only has the world drastically changed, it’s unrecognizable to the generation before us, and we are the fresh newbies; the frontier-parents in the Brave New (digitized) World. We need our wits about us even more than our parents or their parents did, as we not only have to be wary of sexual predators in public toilets, we also have to know what the signs of ‘online grooming’ are.
Now that I’ve depressed you enough (not my intention, just sharing some thoughts), we can move onto Artificial Intelligence AKA Future Unemployment. Another delightful trend my ‘Council of New World Parenting’ and I noted, was the rather alarming rate at which we are being replaced by (thinking) machines. A few friends are knowingly working themselves out of employment as they consult on, or work on projects to develop software or programs that will do theirs or their colleagues’ jobs. Surgeons operate alongside robots that are superior in accuracy, lawyers use document-sifting software with less human error margins, here in Shanghai there are staff-less shops, and there is talk about driverless buses and cars.
Potentially, our children may no longer aspire to become surgeons, paralegals or shopkeepers. Politics and the creative arts remain, however I watched a program called 'Vincent' on the BBC the other day where you make a sketch, and in seconds Vincent turns it into a piece of Impressionist art. This is done utilizing the techniques of 3,000 paintings he has studied, plus he continues to learn. Even if I chopped off my ear and went stark raving mad I, or my children for that matter, just can’t compete. This then leaves politics. Hmm, I hear you say!
Well, maybe Oprah does know it all, and we might well find out soon if that is indeed the future. Until then, what is clear to me is this. I need some brave new parenting tricks up my sleeve as both the world and my children evolve at this rapid rate. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes - at least until they invent that clever parenting blog software.
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