Coding will not future-proof our kids

South Africa hosted the greatest gathering of worlds CEOs at the YPO Edge conference in Cape Townwhere business leaders discussed amongst other topics the future of work. This topic was addressed by the leading thinker in the artificial intelligence space, Dr. Vivien Ming, who shared a unique view about preparing for the future.

Dr. Ming  is a theoretical neuroscientist and technologist. She co-founded Socos, where machine learning and cognitive neuroscience combine to maximize students’ life outcomes.

According to Dr. Ming the world has got it all wrong about preparing for the future especially around the dominant thinking about preparing young people. The popular view right now is that young people should study coding. According to Dr. Ming this is not how society should prepare its young for the future.

There was a time when it was necessary to study coding in order to get the best jobs. That time is slowly getting behind us now. The future of todays youth will be different. In future, it will not be necessary for human beings to code. Those that will code will be equivalent to bricklayers today.

In view of this future, it is unwise at this stage to encourage young people to consider coding as a career as by the time they will be ready to work there will limited work or not so meaningful work in the coding space.

Instead of focusing on coding, Dr Ming suggested that there should be more focus on creativity within the education sector. This is partly the case because creativity will allow young people to deal with any situation that arise. Such a skill will allow them to create under any circumstances. The chances of them being irrelevant would also be less as they can be able to adapt.

In addition to creativity, Ming also highlighted the need for the education system to create a curriculum that will allow young people to learn about resilience, the ability to withstand challenges. She noted that resilience is key for the success of entrepreneurs who built the Silicon Valley.

According to Dr. Ming the success of tech leading companies today has little to do with coding but more to do with creativity and the ability of its CEOs to be resilient.

Speaking on the sidelines of the YPO Edge, Dr. Vivien Ming indicated that if South Africa is to withstand the changes that will come with the future it will have to start now to get its young people to be explorers and people who are hopeful.

This message will be the hardest to swallow for many leaders in South Africa as many believe coding is the next big thing to learn.


President Cyril Ramaphosa was one of the key speakers at the Young Presidents Organisation event. This organisation is the premier leadership organization for chief executives in the world. The insights shared in this event fell on the ears of more 3000 CEOs around the world. As the President and his government is planning to introduce coding in schools it is hoped that he also got the message from Dr. Vivien Ming on what should be done in preparing young people for the future. Coding yes, but creativity and resilience should be chief among the focus areas if South Africa is to create future explorers and founders of leading businesses.


Kay Ann