Life Skills - The New Frontier to Thrive in the Upcoming AI Age: Sanjay Desai

The AI age is already here, silently impacting and defining us, taking existing competencies away and rejigging power domains writes Desai.


The Covid-19 saga stealthily forced a virtual world upon us, setting new benchmarks and norms. The world is now used to working, learning, playing from home, having essentials delivered to the doorstep. 

What remains hidden to our eye is the fact that the greater the shift to a virtual world, the greater the role of AI.  The AI age is already here, silently impacting and defining us, taking existing competencies away and rejigging power domains. The wrangling between governments and technology platforms is a fallout that many would not have anticipated. We still don’t comprehend its larger potential to take jobs away, as required skills to bring economic value significantly shift. The VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) realities will step up inexorably as conventional business models jostle with the new ones. 

The pandemic revealed our deeply hidden fears, anxieties, helplessness and vulnerability. The AI age will make this impact regularly, in affected micro-segments. Are we equipped mentally and emotionally to deal with such times? We have mastered cognitive and technical skills, but are we equipped to cope with such ongoing adversities? 

Let's take the Millennial generation - well-educated in cognitive and technical skills and savvy with technology.  Living in virtual worlds dominated by social media, they have struggled for clarity or motivation in sustaining success journeys in the real world. In seeking self-esteem without a success journey, issues of inadequacy and mental health already dog them. Whereas Xennials missed the transformational technology wave, and are faced with upskilling at Middle Ages. Older Xgen has just managed, but will face longevity occupation issues in a transformed world.  

As we advance into the technological age of greater randomness; faster product and knowledge cycles, and shorter business cycles, uncertainties are no longer going to be one-offs. Additionally, with machine-learning and algorithms gradually taking over even cognitive and analytical domains, how will we cope? 

Life Skills: The Elephant in the Room 

In the popular comic series Transformers, Autobots transform into machines, as well as mimic organic life forms in response to unpredicted events. If we were thus capable, we would be prepared. But since we are not autobots, the best we can do is become ‘antifragile’, as Naseem Taleb says. As shorter timeframes get messier, it may be wiser to learn to gain from disorder rather than continue to rely on order to pull you through.

Biologically, when we stretch our muscles and neurons, we acquire greater functionality and develop responsive traits. Can we adopt and apply these principles to meet the new world challenges?  How do we overstep current systems that reward order and predictability to develop anti-fragility? How can we motivate ourselves to take risks, experiment with the random and volatile, and keep bursting our stressors, to develop such capability? The answer lies in developing mental resilience to ride through unpredictability and reflexiveness to respond, as exemplified by surfers, martial arts, and ballet performers. That brings us to Life-Skills.

Life-Skills is a great umbrella term to inculcate self-awareness and self-management abilities required to develop mental resilience. Combined with wellness, this can become the fulcrum for responsive agility. Cultivating right brained faculties of introspection, art and intuition, are necessary catalysts for nimble footed abilities, to be included.

Traditionally, such life skills were under the domain of spirituality, hobbies and family. Neither business nor education prepared us for this. Our ecosystems are geared to cognitive and technical skills investment to increase production. Can we afford to stick to this paradigm? 

Will we prepare ourselves for the impending impact of the AI age that is already here? For the current workforce, who would take responsibility for this? Will organizations invest into coaching and counseling? Will the employees invest into self-empowerment aka the self-employed? 

While announcing the New Education Policy, Prime Minister Modi urged the youth to develop the qualities of self-confidence and introspection. Layering educational curriculum with mental wellness and success skills would be a great starting point for future generations.

The AI age is making Life-Skills a compelling prime slot for the upcoming future. Physical, mental & emotional well-being, accentuated with self-awareness, will be of paramount importance to support sustained levels of pursuit and resilience to fulfill human potential. 

(Sanjay Desai, is Founder CEO and Emergent Human Design Coach at ConsciousLeap and Author of Jasmine Builds on Shifting Sands )

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