My younger son asked me to help him find out if anyone breeds Pokemon for a job. So we look up breeders and yes, there are professional breeders. He uses his birthday money.

I am happy there’s something he wants to buy because I worry that I buy everything my kids ask for and they are spoiled brats. But who raises spoiled brats on a farm?

I was reading about Apple and the new automated personal assistants. I think the next generation is not going to complain about all the jobs being automated. Instead, they will complain about doing tasks that should be automated, like breeding Pokemon.

After the Orlando shooting my older son said all guns should be tied to an iPhone app. And if 10 people at one spot push a button, all guns in that area are disabled. While the NRA would squash that, his app idea is consistent with my thinking that the next generation’s instinct is to automate.

Specializing will be more important than ever because general skills are more easily automated. Also, in a world where people think of automating first, lots of people will have work alongside automated systems.

How can we prepare kids for this workforce?

Think about automating everything you can at home. Model for the kids that automation is both a logistical question (can it be done?) and a soul-searching question (is the work intrinsically rewarding?).

Ask the kids why they spend their time doing what they are doing. Is it meaningful? Is it fulfilling? Is there something they’d rather do to earn money to pay someone else, or to automate this task?

Also, while parents are fetishizing the handmade-farm-to-table-locavore-whatever movement, the next generation will mock the randomness of the term artisanal. Instead, the look of automation will be the reigning aesthetic. Which explains why images of Olga Noskovaa’s cakes, which look untouched by humans, went viral.

Encourage specialization. Generalists will be automated into oblivion. So teach kids to specialize early on. Generation Z will live to age 90. They will have many careers. But you can’t have a career until you commit to one.

Don’t let young people tell you they don’t know what they want to do. Because honestly, very few adults know what they want to do, and most of them knew when they were young. Everyone else has to take a leap and hope for the best.

Encourage kids to take those leaps early on. When they languish later, waiting to be struck by lightning with a career idea (as everyone does at one point or another), maybe they will remember that a fulfilling life comes from jumping in with two feet and committing to where you land. Because you have to do something, and there’s no right answer.

Look for problems rather than solutions. If we know the solution is to automate, then what is the problem? The more innovative our questions are, the wider a reach automation will have.

My son has a bunch of Pokemon cards he doesn’t want, and he was thinking of some sort of automated way to match them with kids who want them.

My older son said, “Forget it, no one wants those bad cards. They’re bad.”

I said, “Don’t throw them on the floor.”

And my kids started brainstorming for a way to automatically throw out bad cards so that I don’t yell about the kids leaving them all over the house.

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17 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I think you’re spot on here, that kids today will think it’s a total waste of human potential to do rote jobs that automation can do. I see a widening societal gulf between kids/young adults and those probably middle aged and older, all over the world. Trump telling Pennsylvanians he’s bringing back steel production, probably to appeal to that older base that wants the world to go back to the 1950s. Meanwhile, the kids/young adults are all unsure what that hubbub is all about because they see the future and it makes total sense to them.

    • Lance
      Lance says:

      Actually the lower gas prices did bring back a lot of manufacturing. I think America needs to weigh the real total cost of manufacturing abroad.

  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I understand the need to look to the future and automate. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to explain or teach kids the way that you or your parents accomplished a task. It can provide a frame of reference that will prove useful to their innovative and creative juices in the future.
    This sentence – “If we know the solution is to automate, then what is the problem?” – reminded me of a recent FB post by Kat Borlongan who is part of the Paris Summer Innovation Fellowship team. The FB post (note) is titled ‘Letter to the 10-year-old girl who applied to the Paris Summer Innovation Fellowship’. The note which is fairly concise goes as follows –

    “This will make your day, I promise. Eva, a 10-year-old, applied to our summer fellowship program amidst mostly computer science Phds and seasoned urban designers. A summary of her pitch: “The streets of Paris are sad. I want to build a robot that will make them happy again. I’ve already starting learning how to code on Thymio robots, but I have trouble making it work. I want to join the program so the mentors can help me.” Here is my reply to her.

    Dear Eva,

    The answer is yes. You have been selected as one of Paris’ first-ever Summer Innovation Fellows among an impressive pool of candidates from all across the world: accomplished urban designers, data scientists and hardware specialists. I love your project and agree that more should be done–through robotics or otherwise–to improve Paris’ streets and make them smile again.

    I am writing to you personally because your application inspired me. There was nothing on the website that said the program was open to 10 year olds but–as you must have noticed–nothing that said that it was not. You’ve openly told us that you had trouble making the robot work on your own and needed help. That was a brave thing to admit, and ultimately what convinced us to take on your project. Humility and the willingness to learn in order to go beyond our current limitations are at the heart and soul of innovation.

    It is my hope that your work on robotics will encourage more young girls all over the world–not just to code, but to be as brave as you, in asking for help and actively looking for different ways to learn and grow. More good news: I wrote to Thymio, the robotics company whose tech you use and asked if they could designate a specialist to personally help you. They have decided that that person will be their President himself. They will also be providing you their latest robot.

    Welcome aboard our spaceship, Eva. We’re very much looking forward to meeting you in person.

    All the best from Paris,
    Kat Borlongan
    Founding Partner, Five by Five

    Please ask your dad to call me :)”

    The link to the description of the fellowship program is . The 10 year old girl wrote a blog post about her being selected for the fellowship at . She writes her blog in French. However, she has started to use Google Translate for the English readers. :)

  3. Lance
    Lance says:

    Um, criminals would not buy app linked guns and as we’ve seen there are ways around this. Disable the guns of people who can help? Gun shootings are so much more likely in gun free zones. I’ll opt out of the police state. Automation is going to leave even larger swaths of unemployed and deepen divisions in society. I think even programmers will have it hard unless they’re top notch. They already do bc there are awesome programmers in places like russia. Competing globally is also a reality but it’s going to make making a living harder for all. Ultimately someone has to stop government from subsidizing government employees. They earn way more than private sector. It’s an outrage. If you’re going to do that just subsidize everyone the same. What is Pokemon breeding?

  4. Vc
    Vc says:

    I tried an automated assistant. For most things it was awful. I think that’s one job done better by a competent human. Two reasons 1) no busy person wants to keep inputing 2) quick changes creative thinking

    • Jennifa
      Jennifa says:

      I just read this this morning. I love these types of articles, it makes me feel like maybe I am not a bad human, just a human stuck in the wrong world.

  5. Sean
    Sean says:

    Office administration will morph into cues with prioritizers. Prioritizers will be highly paid office admins arranging and rearranging tasks inputted into a system, and they’ll need to be experienced people with common sense and knowledge.

    There will be automated tasks that get done instantly, and then another set of automated tasks waiting in a cue for approval that need to be prioritized by level of importance or time constraint.

    So you’ll have an entire company inputting tasks into a program with a prioritizer making sure each task is in the system in the proper order, approved by whomever in the company, and getting completed in a timely manner.

    I say this because prioritization is already such a big part of my day. With automation, more would get done while we’re off or sleeping. The only decision left would be what order things need to get done.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a really interesting perspective — how there still need to be inputs. And someone needs to manage the priorities. The intersection of human judgment and computer speed is where we need to focus. That’s the part where career growth will be — and I guess that’s the intersection that’s been growing for a while, just that intersection will get bigger and bigger.


  6. Erin
    Erin says:

    I’d like to see more automation in figuring out health insurance issues. But what motivation to insurance companies have in making their services easily accessible?

  7. layla
    layla says:

    My son posts his unwanted Pokemon cards to instagram & is in a few groups where they trade/share cards. Usually kids in these groups are generous & the include a few “surprise” cards when they send the wanted cards in the envelope. I do feel like my kid will go bankrupt on postage, but whatever.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s a great link. Thanks. Good perspective to add to the discussion.


  8. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    Eric Hoffer says that the machine age is “man’s way of breathing will and thought into inanimate matter.” Only man didn’t get it right, fully automated, the first time, so we “had to yoke men, women, and children with iron and steam.” But now, with full automation, maybe we can lift the yoke off the brow of labor.


  9. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Your son might want to look up the Pokemon Collectors’ Community on Livejournal. (They’re probably one of the few places on Livejournal that…actually still uses Livejournal.) Someone there might want some of his cards. Their rules are pretty stringent, though, so he’d have to read them carefully.

  10. Marshall Whitney
    Marshall Whitney says:

    Great article! I think this fits nicely with your sometimes aversion of grad school. Staying and learning and going in debt just to learn how to program a robot is crazy. I just read an Instructables how-to where a 16 year old kid spent three months designing and building a CNC laser engraver in his bedroom! The future is here, it’s really fun and our formal and outdated schools aren’t quite keeping up.

  11. Maria
    Maria says:

    When choosing a career I would ask myself “is this something that a robot could do in a few years”? One good career choice might be “robot programmer”; I doubt that robots will ever be also robot programmers…

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