‘The future is getting stranger and reality is a hard mistress’ - Sidu Ponnappa on how to be future-proof


It wasn't too long ago when people had not heard of job descriptions like ‘big data architects’, ‘app designers’, ‘UX experts,’ and ‘social media managers’, among many others.

Technology is changing quickly and how. The next wave of technology shift is giving rise to new and exciting careers. Gaining the right skills can set you on a path towards a dream job that doesn’t exist yet.

At YourStory’s ‘Future of Work’ conference on Saturday, Sidu Ponappa, Head of Data Engineering and Global Talent Acquisition - Go-Jek gave the audience a much-needed insight into preparing for jobs that don't exist.

Sidu said: “The first thing I want to say is we are bad at predicting/forecasting the future. All of us have worked in tech and know that nobody has successfully predicted any software project’s timeline, let alone a multi-year large-scale macroeconomic model. Everyone’s got a five-year forecast for anything under the sun. But they are largely useless.”

With the future being largely blurred, Sidu clarified that the rate of change is increasing exponentially and rapidly. And one need not prepare for the next change but be prepared for the series of changes that are going to take place.

“The era of linear change in a human lifetime is over. The frequency of exponential disruption is once every decade and dropping fast. The outcomes of stacked exponential changes are utterly unpredictable,” Sidu said.

What can we do?

Children today have to prepare for jobs that don't exist yet, so how does a professional prepare for disruption? What is it that we can do?

Sidu explained, “The important fact is that the incredible becomes banal with time. It seems to a self-defence technique but we should look at extreme situations and try normalising them. This can help us stay ahead for the atleast six months - one year.”

According to him, the obvious disruptions in the hindsight include fire, wheel, printing press, scientific methods, internet, and smartphones.

The ongoing disruptions that all of us have accepted are GPS, Open Source Software, ageing, disease, injury, democracy, gender, and money. “Usually, money use to be a harder point to debate but with all the cryptocurrencies, it is relatively easy,” he said.

“There is no point in human history where one could sustainably live without working, but a point is approaching where one can live without working,” he added. The possible upcoming disruptions include Augmented Reality, uploading, end of work to live, and biological immortality.

“The underlying point here being the future is getting stranger and reality is a harsh mistress,” he said.

Sidhu explained that a few steps that could help in the long run are:

  • Study deeply - “Everyone wants to learn and nobody wants to study.”
  • Study constantly
  • Practise adapting
  • Orient to reality over perception
  • Find mentors - one learns faster from good teachers
  • Learn to surf chaos sustainably and enjoy it

A big shout out to all our sponsors - CureFitOracleProgateGojekDependo and Cowrks.


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