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We Were Promised Jetpacks

The Founder Of ‘Wired’ Has Surprisingly Lo-Fi Advice For Raising High-Tech Kids

If thinking about how technology will impact your kid’s future gives you cold sweats — Will they even have jobs? What do they need to learn now to keep pace? Should all their toys teach them to code? — take the advice of Kevin Kelly. Author of the new book The Inevitable: The Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, Kelly is better known as the founding editor of Wired magazine and one of the more prescient guys to hold the awesome title of “futurist.”

While his new book looks carefully at the technology of a world your kid will inherit, this father of 3 has decidedly analog recommendations for parents hoping to raise kids who can thrive there. Because, while the tools will undoubtedly change, parenting kinda sorta doesn’t. Unless a robot with an Austrian accent is sent to the present from the future to ensure mankind survives. If that happens, this advice won’t be the least bit helpful.

Learn to Be a Permanent Newb
At Wired, Kelly oversaw the hiring of many young employees. Did he care about the college they went to? Their education? Nope. Like the waitstaff at Tchochkes, he looked for a good attitude. “Our saying was: Hire for attitude, train for skills,” says Kelly.

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It was assumed that, whatever his staff knew at the moment, and whatever they would learn on the job, would soon be obsolete. A whole new skill set would eventually need to be acquired. “We’re all permanent newbies. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even though we’ve been trained in school, you have to be retrained,” he says. “Teaching kids facts is not that central. Teaching them to learn is.”

For Rich Experiences, Travel On The Cheap
Skipping Disneyland or that all-inclusive resort in Mexico isn’t just for post-college backpackers. “It actually helps you approach problems from a different angle and keeps your mind nimble and open to see things differently,” says Kelly, who adds that the cheaper the trip is, the better. For example, his family rode bicycles from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific Coast. It was a 40-day trip where they rode 50 miles per day — and it was nothing fancy. They ate from grocery stores, saw homeless camps, and traded stories with other travelers over campfires. “We met people we wouldn’t have otherwise. It was something anyone in America could do,” he says.

Kevin Kelly's Advice For Preparing Kids For The Future

Flickr / Notarim

That surprisingly easy-to-pull-off trip imbued his kids with confidence and a sense of accomplishment, but if you’re looking for something slightly less sweaty, he recommends the developing world. Central and Southern America, and Southeast Asia,are remarkably affordable and will show your kids how people approach everyday problems in totally unexpected ways when their resources are different. That shift in perspective will be hugely valuable as they get older, whether they’re trying to wrap their brains around physics or just need to jumpstart their self-driving hybridbot.

Tackle A Project Together Where You Don’t Know Jack
One of the most effective things a teacher can do is to learn alongside the student. “Kids are impressed when adults say they don’t know something,” Kelly says. These situations can be particularly enlightening when there’s a practical need (like painting the garage), and you can give your kid a worthwhile task (like painting the garage).

“I believe in project-based learning. It employs a different manual and intellectual intelligence, and generates an appetite for more abstract skills, like how much paint do they need to cover this surface? That renders the math class suddenly real,” he says. Best case scenario:  Your son or daughter uses this experience to invent a garage painting robot.

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