Survival of the fittest? No longer…

The phrase “survival of the fittest” originated to describe natural selection in the Darwinian evolutionary theory. Er, what does that mean in English? I think it meant that whoever can outrun the rest could escape from predators and would be able to find food to survive. It was certainly applicable for all species including humans for a long time. But it’s time to adopt and embrace a new phrase for ourselves: “survival of the most adaptable”.

In recent times, we have seen three industrial revolutions that reshaped our world: (1) Mechanical Revolution where steam was replacing human labour in agriculture and factory production, (2) Mass Production where new scientific inventions in gasoline engines and chemicals enabled mass factory productions. With life changing inventions such as electric lighting, aircraft, radio and telephones, humans begin to improve their productivity and experience significant changes in job requirements and lifestyles, and (3) the digital revolution where the world now operates on the cloud, 4G (soon to be 5G) networks, and big data. Of course, we now have COVID-19 that has changed billions of lives in previously unimaginable ways, from business to social interactions, advertising, workflow, education and entertainment. Clearly, the job markets have changes significantly from one industrial revolution to the next and I suspect, COVID-19 will actually speed up our next revolution.

Working from home, social distancing and reduced travelling might be the way we live for the foreseeable future. What this is signalling could include the inconvenient and often overlooked fact that humans are the weak link and are actually not so critical at the physical workplace. As a result, we have seen an accelerated adoption of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence by many companies worldwide to adapt to our new world. Less humans. This is on top of the inevitable wave of driverless vehicles on the roads, more robots in factories, airports, malls and restaurants doing tasks previously done by humans. Cheaper, more reliable and obedient than humans.

The human race is fast advancing towards a future that needs less humans to run the world. The key to survive is no longer being the fittest, but the most adaptable. What does that mean? Be aware of the huge changes that will be a part of our lives, be educated to discover the trends ahead, be open-minded to discard mental models that do not work anymore, and be humble to put egos aside and learn new knowledge and skills necessary for the new reality. Not easy, but absolutely necessary. What would you be doing today?

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