I subscribe to Universe Today, a cool NASA blog which brings weak signals from the future across my radar every day. And not long ago, this headline caught my attention: I WONDER IF IT HAS ROOM SERVICE? HERE’S THE SPACE HOTEL THAT WON A RECENT NASA COMPETITION. It’s about a competition MIT ran challenging students to design “a luxury Earth-facing eight-room space hotel complete with bar, restaurant, and gym, that will make orbital space holidays a reality.”
I don’t expect to use my SPG points in this hotel, but it’s plausible some of the young people I work with will experience space this way. A 9th grader in high school today may be part of a team building a space hotel in ten or fifteen years for…Amazon? Elon Musk? NASA? The Four Seasons? Her own family? Sci-fi becomes science reality.
It use to be you’d coach a child to look into hotel management (maybe Cornell?); engineering (MIT or Georgia Tech?); or a business degree (Babson or the Univ. of Texas perhaps?). Now the work of the future is about fusion, cross discipline understanding, and relationships with artificial intelligence systems that will make many of formerly sci-fi inventions possible.
And though preparing for futures we can’t imagine has been the lot of every generation, the speed and possibilities we’re encountering today are mind boggling. The challenge we have now is to help the next generation develop readiness for the unexpected and capacity to anticipate, not just react to whatever comes their way. These are skills every family can nurture–if they’re intentional. Here are three habits you may already practice with your kids, if not, give them a try:
- Make them a captain of something every week. It could be Captain of designing the table setting, or Captain of getting the family out of the house on time, or Captain of good nutrition for a week–it doesn’t matter and I hope you’ll try out lots of ‘Captain’ assignments. The point is to give them leadership practice. Getting things done, inspiring others to follow, and imagining solutions are all skills essential skills for navigating the future, whatever changes come their way.
- Challenge them to imagine ‘the big picture.’ Instead of an allowance of say $50/week or $500/a month (a lot depends on age and what they’re supposed to be in charge of) challenge them to give you a plan for how they might manage $600 or $6000 in a year. Understanding the choices that come with a larger picture is not the same as giving them cash and letting them loose. Helping them connect the micro-finance of a weekly allowance to the macro-finance of their lives is a means of developing vision, a long term view, and short and long term decision-making skills.
- Illuminate something. Remember the anatomical skeletons in high school biology that illuminated the human body? We need more concrete ways to make the world transparent to kids. Buying a car? Include them in the math of buying (and maintaining) the car. Making hamburgers for the soccer team? Have them work out the number of pounds of beef you expect will be eaten and what it costs per pound. Not too long ago I asked small groups of teens what they thought their family’s monthly electric bill was each month. “$5000? “ one guessed. Another threw out $10,000. Teens aren’t stupid, but the grown-ups around them are not illuminating enough of life to help them get a grip on reality. Understanding what is real today will help them understand what is real and what could be real in the not so distant future.
Change has so accelerated that the future is hardly “out there” any longer–it’s right here. And the sooner we give family members the new skills they need to cope, adapt to and anticipate it, the more resilient we will all be.