Writing and money. It seems obvious to point out how vital these two things are to our day-to-day existence but strange as it may seem at one stage they did not exist.
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During my holiday earlier in the summer I had the good fortune to read Yuval Noah Harari’s sensational insightful Homo Deus book.
In this mighty tome the best-selling Israeli historian and philosopher details how ancient civilizations were able to expand beyond the hunter gather stage using these two things.
Prior to money, the likes of Pharaohs were unable to effectively manage the expansion of their domains, running across everything from developing and maintaining their armed forces to infrastructure projects.
And without writing they could not keep a ledger of what had been done and what needed doing.
It allowed for the flourishing and proliferation of the likes of ancient Egypt and gave people the building blocks to expand their control over civilizations numbering in the thousands.
Such developments, combined with the agricultural revolution, meant we as a species no longer were forced to operate in small tribal communities and could form the basis of modern nation states.
It meant that mastery of these two principals was a passport to power.
For centuries numeracy and literacy were the preserve of an elite group of individuals.
Up until relatively very recently in our history, the percentage of people who had a grasp of these skills was limited.
The advent of a more egalitarian educational system means that in the last century our citizenry is now far more skilled then it had been for thousands of years of human history.
The result of this democratisation of knowledge is apparent in our day-to-day existence and we now have a far more fair and just society than
our ancestors could have imagined.
However, while the journey with literacy and numeracy is far from complete, we now stand on the cusp of another chapter in our history as a species and one which could bring a whole new arena in which a divide between the haves and have nots emerges.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now in full swing and promises to be more seismic and transformatory than any of its three forefathers.
In an age in which the algorithm, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are becoming part of life at a rate of knots the ability to understand, shape and develop these areas will be key to the successes of individuals, regions and countries.
There is much work to be done in our region on this front. A Centre for Cities report showed that, when it came to digital jobs, Yorkshire was employing only 55,000, or 4.4 per cent, of the industry’s 1.2m workforce.
This is compared to 690,000 digital sector positions in the South East, 55 per cent of the total with London, rather predictably, dominating the sector.
Research from Lloyds Bank showed that as many as four in 10 of Yorkshire SMEs lack the basic digital skills that could drive growth.
What makes this figure rather more startling is that Yorkshire is home to some of the nation’s top tech companies as well several of the best universities in Europe. Finding a pathway to gaining digital skills is not just something which is incumbent on our society or our employers (although both of
these should be addressing this issue as a matter of extreme urgency).
It is a matter that we should embrace as individuals.
If your employer cannot help upskill your digital knowledge then, frankly, it is time to find a new job.
I am utterly convinced that by the time my daughter begins her career in around 15 years time that she will be working in a profession that currently does not exist.
Her generation will grow up with skills we can only imagine.
But for the rest of us, for whom time is not quite as much on our side, the importance of keeping pace is paramount, lest we find ourselves on the wrong side of the pharaohs.