Free Play and the Future of Work

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There is no better way for a child to learn the social and emotional skills they will need for the future job landscape than on the playground.

How do we prepare children for jobs that will exist in an unforeseeable future economy? That is the question that New York Times writers, Claire Cain Miller and Jess Bidgood, consider in their article "How to Prepare Preschoolers for an Automated Economy". Here is how they put the dilemma: 

Technological advances have rendered an increasing number of jobs obsolete in the last decade, and researchers say parts of most jobs will eventually be automated. What the labor market will look like when today’s young children are old enough to work is perhaps harder to predict than at any time in recent history. Jobs are likely to be very different, but we don’t know which will still exist, which will be done by machines and which new ones will be created.

In the article, the authors weigh the virtues of children as young as two learning skills like coding which is anticipated to be an existing form of work vs. being taught social and emotional skills, giving them an emotive ability that machines will not be able to duplicate (not so sure about that).

There are two things that strike me about this debate:

  • The sense that we can actually anticipate what work will be like (Dominoes is now experimenting with driverless delivery)
  • That even if we know what the job landscape is going to look like, we have to teach children how to socialize.

Why can't we just let children play without adult supervision?

There is no better way for a child to learn the social and emotional skills they will need for the future job landscape than on the playground. In fact, when children play and adults are not around, children learn to improvise and improvisation is the cornerstone of surviving in any economy.

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