Lynda Gratton – The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World
In this episode of Ag Future we revisit a conversation that Susanna Elliott, chief of staff at Alltech, had with Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at the London Business School and founder of the advisory practice HSM, as a part of the Alltech ONE Ideas Conference. While human progress and smarter technologies have risen to great heights, these advancements have prompted some anxiety about where we’re headed. Lynda discusses a framework based on three fundamental principles to give you the tools to navigate the challenges ahead. For more information and to register for ONE 2021, visit one.alltech.com.
Susanna: Is our technology becoming a Frankenstein to be feared? And what happens when the world turns gray with an aging population? For the first time in our history, more people are over the age of 65 than under the age of five. Ahead of us is the promise of a longer and healthier life, but the life that we know just might be over.
Welcome to the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience. I'm Susanna Elliott, and joining me today to explain both the possibilities and the seismic change ahead is the author of The New Long Life, Lynda Gratton. Lynda is widely regarded as an expert on the future of work. She is a professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, and sits on the World Economic Forum's council. She is ranked one of the top 15 business thinkers in the world, and today, she's here to help us understand what it means to be human in a world of technological innovation.
Lynda, it is a privilege to welcome you to the ONE. We are living in the vortex of an enormous transformation. I know you've referred to the next ten years as perhaps the largest and fastest transition ever, and much of this shift is as a result of technology. Can you talk a little bit about the changes that are on the horizon for us?
Lynda: Well, technology is one of the shifts that's fundamentally changing our lives. And of course, during COVID, I think we all realize that technology was baked into our offices, but also our homes. Really fascinatingly, on the 14th of March, so this was just as COVID struck, I ran a webinar at London Business School about virtual working. One of the questions I asked was what is your experience now? There were about 2000 people on the webinar and I gave them five different descriptions. The one that most people said was, "I'm feeling a bit lonely at home" and the one that only 2% or 3% said was, "My technology is letting me down." I think we forget just how brilliantly technology has held up. That means that in the months to come, this question of hybrid work, where are we going to work, is going to be possible because of technology.
Now, if you think about the technologies that we have in our home and at work, one of the questions that I think is reasonable to ask is does it mean that we're going to all lose our jobs? There's some debate about that. My own view is that technology will fundamentally change almost every one of our jobs. I'm a professor. I can imagine that some of my job will be done through AI, some of it will be done through a chat box, and there's only part of what I'll carry on doing. So it will change all of our jobs and it will add new jobs, which by the way is very difficult to predict.
I live here in Primrose Hill. If I'd shown you in 1830 -- I wasn't alive in 1830, by the way. But if I had been and looked out onto the street here in Primrose Hill in the center of London, you'd have seen many different horses going by. In fact, there were more than a million horses in London. If I said, by the way, there's now something called a motor vehicle, you'd have said, "Well, obviously, that's going to destroy all those people's jobs. Who's going to look after the horses? Who's going to shod them? Who's going to feed them?" But what you couldn't have imagined was the jobs that this new technology, this motorcar would create. The fact that it would build oil companies, that it would have rubber companies, that it would build a supply chain, that it would make sure that people then travel so they had more leisure and so on.
The simple point I would like to make about technology -- two points really -- number one, all of our jobs are going to change. That means that upskilling and reskilling becomes a lifetime event for everyone. Number two, we can't really predict where the new jobs are going to come from, so we have to remain flexible and also be really capable of navigating the future.
Susanna: I love that message, Lynda. I think it's one part exciting about the possibilities, but then there's also a little bit of anxiety I think we still feel when so much of that change remains unknown. What are some things we can do now to prepare? I know in your book, you talk quite a bit about moving away maybe from the routine tasks. Maybe you can elaborate on that a bit more, about the things and the choices we can start making right now when we look at our work.
Lynda: Well, there are so many things that we can do really to prepare for the future because of course, technology is not the only force that's changing our life. My one book, The 100-Year Life, was about the demographics, the fact that many of us are going to be living into our 90s and 80s. That means that we'll be working into our 70s. So the very structure of our life, the idea of full-time education, full-time work, full-time retirement, that becomes an impossibility. So if you bring both of those things together, the huge changes in technology plus the fact that we're going to be living so much longer, what that means is we have to prepare for what I in the book called, what Andrew Scott and I called the multistage life. The idea that you will need to be thinking about your education right the way through your life, upskilling and reskilling. It means that you have an opportunity to take time out. Why leave all of your leisure time until your retirement? Why don't you bring some of that back so that at 30 or 40 or 50, you could have a gap year?
It's a completely different way of thinking about our lives. Actually, in terms of preparing for it, one of the points I make in The New Long Life is it's a great opportunity for us to think about what could our possible selves be. What could we be that's different from what we are now? Because in a long life with lots of technological change, the opportunities to change the way that you live, to change your skill set even begin to change your identity. These are all now possible.
Susanna: It's amazing. I spent a lot of time reflecting on this part of your book because it's something that I guess we've just always grown to accept, that there's this three-stage life and perhaps even not given it much thought. You have education, you have work, and then you have retirement, and how all of those lines are now being blurred. I really love the idea, especially as a mom of three young kids right now. I've often said to my husband, gosh, I wish that I could live my retirement right now when my kids are young. But I guess the question though, how realistic do you see us breaking that three-stage model? Will it happen in my lifetime or is this something that may take a few generations before we change the whole societal framework?
Lynda: No, I think it's happening right now actually. Although COVID, the pandemic, has created enormous loss and deep anxiety and pain for many people, it's actually accelerated many of the trends that I've talked about when I've been talking over the years about the future of work the digital trends. Actually, many companies are now asking their employees, would you like to work flexibly? Would you like to continue to work from home? Would you like to flex the hours you work? Not surprising, most people are saying, "Yes, I absolutely would."
By the way, I don't think that's particularly because of the pandemic. I think any company that had asked that question a year ago would have had the same response. It's just that they didn't ask the question because they couldn't imagine that people could work from home and still be really productive. So I do think that what we've experienced in the last year as it is -- it is a year now, isn't it, almost -- has actually fundamentally changed the way we think about work. And whereas with the pandemic, we thought about how do we restructure a week, I think actually, a legitimate question would be, well, how do we restructure a year?
If I could work anywhere, well, why couldn't I travel the world at work? Or if I don't have to work all the time then why couldn't I take six weeks off? Why couldn't I work for four days a week? I think these are all legitimate questions. By the way, social change happens not usually because a corporation wants it to happen. It happens because individuals say, "I want this and it's important to me." If those individuals are important to the company, let's say they have particular talents that are valuable or they're high performers, companies listen really hard. So all across the world, I'm hearing companies saying, leaders saying, "We need to change the way that people work." The more that you and your colleagues say, "This is what we want," the more likely you are to get it.
Susanna: Yeah, I think you're actually leading into a point that I really loved in your book, talking about the importance of becoming social pioneers and how often when we have huge leaps forward in technology that the gains aren't felt immediately, that we have to have social ingenuity that responds to that human ingenuity at first.
Right now, you describe that there's this widening gap between the technologies and between the social structures, although perhaps as you've mentioned there, as a result of COVID, we've been able to speed up again in terms of maybe our acceptance of flexibility. But right now, as we continue to live in this gap between what was and what could be and what will be, what are some ways that we can cultivate that social ingenuity?
Lynda: Well, thank you for that question. Really, if you look at the history of change, the history of social change, why does anything change? Why do we now have pensions when we didn't use to? Why do we now have something called a teenager when we really had nothing? No age group was called a teenager, but now there are. It's because individuals say, "This is what I would like to happen" and they're social pioneers. The group I'm interested in is people in their 70s who are saying, "I now want to work. Stop discriminating against me. Stop telling me I'm old. I want to start my own business. I want to be a digital expert. Why is it that only young people can be digital experts? Why couldn't the old?"
I think there's a whole bunch of people at different ages doing different jobs who say, "I'd like to live my life differently." The more people do that, the more that we look around and see them and say, "Wow, that's exciting. Maybe I could be like that." That's why, by the way, in the book, we talk quite a lot about networks. Because we say if you spend all your time with people who are just like you, the chances are that you never see what other lives could be. That's a real argument for building diverse networks, which are diverse in terms of gender obviously, but also in terms of age groups and the sort of jobs that people do.
I'm not myself an entrepreneur, but I have friends who are. That's why when I thought about setting up my own business, I looked at them and thought, wow, I could do that. If they can do that, I can. So building diverse networks turns out to be really important if you want to be a social pioneer.
Susanna: I think that's fantastic because one of the key points I drew from your book, too, was an expanded view of inclusivity. We don't normally think of age as being a part of that. I know within the book and even within some other interviews, I've heard you really challenge the stereotypes and generalizations that go with various generations. I wonder if you could speak to that a little bit further particularly you, the aging population, and the over 65 group.
Lynda: Yeah. Well, thank you for that question. I feel a little bit of a party pooper because I know we love generational labels. We talk about Gen Y and Gen X and Baby Boomers, but honestly, there's no empirical evidence for any of it, none at all. It's made up. In fact, if I showed you, if I gave you a whole bunch of data about people, and from that data predict what generation they're in -- I don't mean you gave them the age data, but just how they felt about themselves and so on -- it will be very difficult for you to predict what generational group they are. That's the first problem with generational labels.
The second is that it assumes that everybody within that label is the same. I'm a Baby Boomer, but that doesn't mean to say that I'm the same as every Baby Boomer. One of the really interesting things about living longer is as you live longer, the diversity within an age group increases whereas if you look at your one-year-olds, they all pretty much look the same. I know for me, I have lots of children, so the only thing I ever remember about kids is they walk at one and they talk at two. That's about as far as it goes with me. But actually, by the time they're 16, they're already different. And by the time they're 60, people are completely different from each other. You can have an incredibly healthy 60-year-old, a 60-year-old who's gone and exploring the world, and another 60-year-old who's staying at home and frightened of everything and doesn't want to get out of their home.
We've really got to just look at people for what they are and particularly in consumer terms. If you as a technology company think that the only people who are technically literate are young people, you're missing out on actually the largest cohort that there is, which are the people who are over 40.
I think it's really important that we drop our stereotypes of generational labels and just look at people for what they are. Some are young, some are old. They're different within their own age groups.
Susanna: Yeah. The implications of generalizing could be tremendous. As you mentioned from the business point of view, the opportunity that exists when we're looking at a demographic that is perhaps the most affluent of that demographic that has ever existed, they could be spending $15 to $20 trillion a year, and yet you'd see very few advertisements targeted to that over 65-year age group. Perhaps you can talk a little bit about how you would be advising companies and CEOs who are considering that growing over 65 group without overgeneralizing.
Lynda: Yeah. Well, the very fact we just used the term over 65, that immediately tells you something, doesn't it? You imagine that even though most of us are going to live now into our 80s, possibly our 90s, we're still saying somehow when you're over 65, you're all the same as each other, and there's no evidence of that. What we're seeing is that as people are living longer, healthy living becomes really important. People said to me after I'd written The 100-Year Life with Andrew Scott, "What did it mean for you? What difference did you make?" The simple truth was I became healthy. I lost weight. I started Pilates. I started walking and running for an hour every day, and I'm a hell of a lot healthier now than I was four years ago. People are really focusing on healthy living. That's a very, very important part of what it is to be older in our society.
The second thing is they want to carry on learning. If you live to 90 or 80, you really have to work into your 70s. I was just on a call with one of the US' largest insurers just an hour ago, talking to their managers and saying people need to walk into their 70s now. We have to accept that and help them to do it and support them to do it. You're in a country, of course, where you've got all sorts of people over the age of 70 in very senior position. So we have to be much more accepting that people are perfectly capable of being highly productive into their 70s and 80s, and possibly into their 90s. That means it's a very exciting time.
I'm 65. I'm very pleased that I'm 65 now as opposed to being 65 when my grandmother was 65 because although she went on to live into her 90s, she was really treated as if she was old at the age of 65. Certainly, I don't feel old at 65. I think that's helped me become the person that I am and the person that I will be as I age.
Susanna: I want to pick up on that point on education just a little bit. In our organization, we've always had a focus on lifelong learning. In your book, you illuminate the idea that learning becomes a choice. It's something we do throughout our lives because again, it's no longer sectioned off into this three-stage traditional narrative. My question for you -- and you're in the London Business School -- is the university model now broken? What do we need to do at a university level to make education accessible throughout all of life?
Lynda: Yeah, it's completely broken. No question about that. It's shocking how slow universities have been to change. Having said that, two things have happened, which have really accelerated, in fact, during the pandemic. The first is that there are amazing online programs. Some of the universities are very active. Harvard, for example, has as many people online now as it does in its campus. Companies like Coursera are doing an incredible job of giving people the opportunity to learn online. During COVID, one of the things that's happened is we've all become very relaxed about virtual working. I teach all of my classes now virtually. Now, I'm not going to be doing that forever, but certainly this year, I have. The feedback honestly has been pretty good. There's a lot to be said for virtual teaching.
I think we've really learned how to teach virtually, which of course has got a completely different cost point than if you have to come along to a university campus. I think the second thing is that universities are also realizing that they have to think about older people.
Now, Stanford, for example, as always -- well, certainly for some years has had a wonderful program for over 60-year-olds, but it's very, very expensive and really not accessible to anybody except for the wealthiest. But nevertheless, you can begin to see that there are opportunities for us to reach out to people in every age group. Certainly, one of the things that we're doing at London Business School is to think about our alumni, the people who came mostly to do an MBA in their mid-20s. We want to be much more actively involved with their learning right the way through their life and not just when they're on our campus.
Susanna: Yeah. It's interesting because people now pursue learning in very nontraditional ways. It might be through YouTube. It might be through podcasts. They may not be interested or able to commit to doing a degree at a particular time. Do you see a role for technology to play and beginning to track how people learn the pathways in which they learn? Maybe they get a credential in one place. It could even be through some virtual learning or a podcast or YouTube again. Is there a way that we would begin to track that? I don't know if there's blockchain of education that we begin to build as a society.
Lynda: Yeah, that's absolutely crucial. There are two ways that technology firms could really, really, really help right now, or three ways, but let me just talk about two. The first is the whole business about -- well, let me give you the three ways companies can help. The first is in the recruitment process, to help companies recruit rather than simply saying does this person have a degree or not. Because one of the shocking aspects of the labor market, particularly in the US, is that if you don't have a degree, you don't even get looked at even though you might have some great skills. So the first thing that technology can do is it can help people get into the recruitment process even if they don't have a college degree.
The second thing they can do is really build amazing online education. I follow all of this, by the way. I'll speak about that in a moment, but I'm very, very interested in technology of companies who are doing this because they will make the world a better place. There are some amazingly experimental, innovative online programs now being built.
The third, which is the point that you speak about and I think is absolutely crucial is credentialing. It's very difficult for an adult to be really persuaded to learn a lot unless there's a credential at the end of it. Now, there are amazing credentials for digital skills. IBM, Microsoft and so on have actually built a whole suite of training programs that end up with a certificate, but that's not yet really happened in other softer skills like customer service skills, decision making, empathy and so on. We do need to help people credentialize their skills so that when they go for a job, they can say, look, I can prove that I know how to do this.
If I were to add a fourth thing that I think technology could really help, it's again your point, and this is about navigation. There's a fantastic report that came out in the US this week actually that showed that many people doing relatively low paid jobs, as part of that job, have some of the skills that will help them do a higher paid job, but they don't know that. They don't know how to navigate into those higher paid jobs. They also don't know what skills should I be adding so that I can do this higher paid job. That's absolutely crucial. Navigating across the labor market is so important for individuals, and technology can really help.
Now, my plea to you is please start businesses that do that. I co-chair the World Economic Forum Council on jobs, so that's where all the tech companies come to Davos every year. One of the things that I've said as part of my role there is that I would like to build an ecosystem. I like even just to write the ecosystem of all the companies that are working in helping people get jobs. I'm on the lookout all the time. Certainly, at London Business School, we have a whole bunch of MBA students who are building businesses that support employees to find work and then to credentialize the work and so on, so it's an incredibly important ecosystem of technology.
Susanna: Yeah. I'd actually like to stay on this topic of company's roles in helping to navigate this new landscape because so much of our audience here on the ONE Virtual Experience, they are business owners themselves. How should they be rethinking the typical career path for their organization? How do we break free of that, "You're 65. It's time to retire" and break that link between age and stage when we might have somebody -- it might not be 30 years in the company as a significant thing. It could be 50, 60 years with an organization moving forward.
Lynda: Yeah. Well, I think it's quite -- first of all, it's about forgetting the stereotypes. I've mentioned that already, which is to say don't stereotype people on the basis of their age. Age is very malleable. We basically age pretty much as we want to age. Each of us can change the way we age by the choices we make on a daily basis about how we live. Do remember that age is malleable.
The second thing to say is that I don't think there are any big policy decisions here. I think it's actually having conversations with people. I was talking to a company yesterday. It was one of the big German manufacturing companies and they said, "We're really worried because we've got all these 50-year-olds who are incredibly expert in our methodologies. We're worried that they're all going to retire. What can we do about that?" Well, the obvious answer is you talk to them and ask them what they want. Once you do that, you'll find that they will tell you what it is they want because very few people actually want to leave work at 50. The idea that you leave work at 50, and then spend from the age of 50 to age of 90 playing golf, nobody wants to do that. I don't know anyone who wants to do that. They want to stay productive, but they probably just don't want to work in the way that you're describing work, so listening to individuals.
Again, technology plays a really great role there. My advisory company, HSM, does two big things. One thing is that it joins our companies to talk about the future of work. We've been doing that for more than a decade now. But the other thing it does is we have a platform where we can get up to 200,000 people in a company talking about something that's important to them, and we find a way of moderating and facilitating that conversation. We've done quite a lot actually, which says to people, "What is it that you would like?" and they will tell you what they want.
For example, some 60-year-olds are saying, "I would love to mentor other people. I would absolutely love to mentor the young." The young are saying, "Wow, I'd love to mentor an older person, so why don't we get that happening?" They say, "I'd really like to be part of this, but I don't want to work every week. I want to take six weeks off." I think being more responsive to what it is people want at every age, not just the over 60s, is a very smart way forward. I think one of the things that we've learned from COVID is we actually can arrange work in many different ways and still be highly productive. Who would have thought that I would be sitting here in my personal home studio, talking to you? I wouldn't have probably done that a year ago, and yet this is probably the third webinar I've done today. It's amazing. We've all learned incredible skills.
Susanna: We have. I want to pick up on your point there with regard to intergenerational relationships because another piece of your book that stood out to me is the importance of relationships. Here we're talking quite a bit about the changes that technology is bringing forward, but how we will be successful ultimately comes down to how we remain human and how we connect to others and the importance of connecting beyond our generation. Perhaps you can talk a little bit more about what we can do to cultivate relationships throughout this longer life.
Lynda: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that question. I've been talking about the role of families, communities, and neighborhoods in almost every one of my books. I've written ten books now and it's been a theme that's gone right the way through. In fact, the first book, I wrote about the future of work, which is called The Shift, which I wrote ten years ago. I really talked quite a lot about neighborhoods and families. I think of all the things I spoke about in that book, that was the one that didn't really make a difference.
I didn't really see people investing in their families in the way that I thought they might want to. Men weren't taking any more paternity leave. Women were struggling with maternity leave. People were struggling with looking after their kids. I think that's a shame. I think, again, COVID has shown us that it's possible to work from home. It's possible to be more related to our families at home and to our neighborhoods. I think quite a number of people are going to say, "If I can work from anywhere, why do I need to live in a big city? Why wouldn't I want to live in a smaller suburb or a smaller town where I can walk around, where I can take the kids to school? I don't have to get in the car all the time." These are, in my view, very positive and healthy choices. I think we will see people really actively making choices that provide healthy families. That's the word that I would use. What can you do to support healthy families? The more that companies can do that, the more vibrant our society becomes.
There's a virtual company based out of California that I've written about quite a lot actually. One of the things that they say is we never meet each other. We're all completely virtual, but that doesn't mean to say that we don't socialize. We socialize within our neighborhoods, not to our colleagues. I think that's a really interesting point, isn't it? Why wouldn't you want to spend time with your neighbors and with your family, not necessarily with your colleagues? There's another thought about families and communities.
Susanna: Yeah. When we think about that, what are some ways that companies can very practically help contribute to society in this new 100-year life, particularly when you think about enhancing families, maybe allowing people to have more opportunity for that lifelong learning, or these, "I'm going to take a year off and I'm going to go travel the world?" What should we be thinking about if we are company owners, managers, and trying to incentivize that for our team members?
Lynda: Well, I think it's again listening to the individuals. For me, autonomy and travel are my biggest loves. I headed up one of the big consulting practices at the age of 32. I was the youngest director ever at the age of 32, and I left to come into business school. The reason I did that is I wanted autonomy. I was working in one of those consulting practices where I was on a plane all the time. I was working all hours and I didn't want that. I came into academia in part because I wanted the autonomy. But of course, other people want different things. So I would listen to your high potential people and find out what it is they want. I think you'll be surprised that many are taking very thoughtful views about their future.
One of the interesting things about families is that in most countries of the world, men and women work. Mothers and fathers work. So when we built organizational structures, we often built it with the idea that there would be a man who would work and there would be a woman or a partner, mostly a woman, who would stay at home and look after the kids. That's a tiny minority of our families. Most families have both working parents. That gives them actually a lot more choice because they're no longer dependent on one income. They've got two incomes, so they can act as a unit in terms of the choices that they make.
I think that listening to what it is people want at different stages of their life is a very smart thing to do. I myself, I run my own business, as well as writing about businesses. In fact, I sit on the board of a multinational, so I do see huge companies, but I also see small companies. My company's only 20 people, so I feel all the issues that everybody else is feeling in terms of managing a relatively small, in my case, technology-focused business. Listening to your employees, I think, is at the heart of getting that right.
Susanna: You've also done some extensive consultation work for governments, particularly in Japan. I know you were brought in at the request of Prime Minister Abe to take a look at the 100-year society. What are some learnings that we can take from Japan?
Lynda: Well, Japanese people up until recently live longer than any other people in the world. In fact, Hong Kong is currently on the top of the list of populations who live into their hundreds.
The way that Japan does it if you go into the communities is that they eat very healthily. If you've ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you know they're eating a lot of fish, and that's amazingly healthy. Not so much in Tokyo, but certainly out of Tokyo, they have very strong communities. Somebody will bump into a neighbor on a daily basis and they walk. In fact, actually, if you look at the places in the world where people live into their 90s, in the hundreds, they almost always walk. I know that many of you are going to be living in cities where you get into your car every day and drive to work. That's terrible. If you look at places where people live to a hundred, they do three things, as I mentioned. Firstly, it's about what they eat. Secondly, it's about being part of a community, as simple as talking to a neighbor every day. That seems to make a massive difference to your mental health. Thirdly, walking every day, not necessarily big exercise, but actually standing up and walking. Those seem to be the three things that certainly Japan is very keen on.
Part of what Prime Minister Abe wanted to do was to move people out of Tokyo and encourage people to live in the countryside. In fact, the COVID has absolutely accelerated that trend. So people are much more interested now in living in the countryside because they don't have to commute into Tokyo every day.
Susanna: It's fascinating, some of those three points that you've mentioned, how critical they are to mental health, which is something that is quite critical at the moment. We're talking about it a lot within our organization. It's also very significant in the sector that we work in, agriculture, which will be most of the audience that's listening to you through the ONE Virtual Experience. Those are important points.
Just taking that a step further, as an individual, I'm listening to you here on the ONE Virtual Experience from my home on my laptop. We're still in the midst of COVID coming up on the holidays. Lynda, what should I be doing right now when I think about this possibility of living many more years? What are some of the choices I need to be making right now?
Lynda: Well, I would say this is the time, especially at your age, to really put down a foundation for a long life, a long, healthy life. We all know what those things are. Just as I said, from Japan, if you go actually to the website for The 100-Year Life, which is www.100yearlife.com, you can fill in a diagnostic that tells you how much you're preparing for a long, healthy life. It basically asks questions around three areas or four areas because there's also stuff about money. One is whether you're living healthily. Honestly, we all know what that is. It's about food and exercise, simple as that.
Secondly, it's about whether you're developing your skills, how much time you're setting aside to learn new things. Thirdly, it's about whether you're building strong, meaningful relationships with other people. Fourthly, of course, it's about whether you're saving enough money. If you're doing all those four things, you are in brilliant shape.
Susanna: That's great. I imagine that's part of the advice you're giving your children. I know you mentioned several kids. Is there anything you would change when you look to the next generation?
Lynda: I actually have eight children and we've got 11 grandchildren, so yeah, there's a lot. When you say what would I change, what do you mean by that?
Susanna: Would your advice be any different when you look to the next generation or would it be pretty much the same as what you've just shared?
Lynda: I think when I look at my own kids, who range from -- the youngest is late 20s, and they go right up into their late 30s. One of the things we talk about in The New Long Life is this notion of possible selves. At any stage in your life, you can reinvent yourself. You can be something different. I think that's really good advice because I think when you start off, especially when you're young, you think, "Well, maybe I've got to do this for the rest of my life" and the simple truth is you don't. You can be lots of things.
I've always encouraged my kids to be explorers. In fact, my father encouraged me to do the same and it was a great piece of advice. I remember -- this was unusual actually. At the age of 21, I hitchhiked -- this was madness -- from the north of England right away through Europe, right away through Syria, right away through Jordan into Israel. I had a scholarship to look at child rearing practices in a kibbutz. I wouldn't suggest my children hitchhike right away through Syria and Jordan these days. But when Chris was young, was 18, I said go live abroad for a year, and he lived in Shanghai, Mumbai, and Singapore as a journalist. He wanted to be a journalist. He didn't actually turn out to be a journalist, but that's what he wanted to do when he was 18.
I would say to young children, just explore the world. I know COVID is terrible, but once it's over, we can start moving around again. I think the best thing that a child can do is to explore the world. I love seeing the rest of the world. It's a wonderful way of learning. I've learned so much, as you say. I spent quite a bit of time in Japan. I come over to the States obviously quite a lot as well, but Japan in particular is just the most fascinating country. If you haven't been, as soon as you can, buy yourself a ticket and go and have a look at it. It's astounding. It's an astoundingly different country, the same in Africa. I mentioned to you I'm hoping on the 28th of this year, this December, to be over in Tanzania to have a look at the Serengeti. Africa is an extraordinary place, so that would be my number one advice to my own kids, is explore the world.
Susanna: Yeah. We would be very much in sync with you from an Alltech perspective. We always consider travel to be the great educator.
Lynda: Oh, great!
Susanna: Yeah, we do. We love to travel here at Alltech. We've talked about so much change from the three-stage life now becoming an entirely new narrative, and all of the societal changes that need to go along with that. What do you feel is maybe the greatest challenge to change as you consider education and government, and even how we view age? What would you narrow down to be the greatest challenge?
Lynda: One of the things that I do in my teaching -- and I do it actually when I advise companies as well. It's something that you may want to think about in your own company -- is I build personas. I build just one page descriptions of individuals who are typical of the people in your company. Then when I teach, I ask my students -- I do that, by the way, in my new book. You'll see that there are characters that I ask the reader to think about. I ask them to think about their lives.
One thing to remember is it's much easier for us to understand the trends that are shaping our world through the eyes of an individual. It's much more difficult to understand them just in a broadest way. For people who are educated and who have agency, I think, honestly, they can grab the future. If I look at my own kids, highly educated, you can see they're going to have a great life. But in a way, that's not the challenge. The challenge that we all face are the kids who don't have that.
One of the sad aspects of the trends that are shaping our world is that all of them lead to great inequality. In terms of tech, we know that people who have higher education are much less likely to have their jobs automated. In terms of demography, we know people who are educated and wealthy live 12 years longer than people who aren't. In terms of family structures, we know that people who don't have resources, it's incredibly difficult for them to have stable families. I think as we think about the future, we actually also have to think about how do we within our companies and within our societies and with our government support those people who don't have the chances and choices that we've got.
Susanna: I can't agree with you more. I think that really came through strongly in your book. In order for technology to bring progress, we all have to be able to flourish from it and to create a construct in which we enable that to happen. Hopefully, that's the case. We do things like make education more accessible and so on. I want to end on a note that we have asked all of our participants here in the ONE Virtual Experience. We were focused on optimism for the future, and your book in and of itself, the prospect of a longer, healthier life, is full of
Can you maybe tell me a little bit more about as you look to the future, what is it that makes you optimistic?
Lynda: I think technology makes me incredibly optimistic. I can't wait to have a car that I don't have to drive myself. I've got already a very advanced car and I can see it's dying for me to stop driving it because it's constantly trying to drive my car. I think it will be amazing when we have technology that allows us to see each other even more clearly than we do now. I can see that virtual reality is going to play an incredibly important part. Wouldn't it be marvelous if I can teach you in a more interactive way?
I think that technology is absolutely going to make our lives more exciting. But as machines become better, we humans also have to become better. We have to become more human. As machines become more technology, we have to become more human. And being more human is about empathy, creativity, innovation, so I also see the future as a real opportunity for human innovation, human creativity to build a better world.
Susanna: I can't ask for a more perfect note to end on, staying human in a world full of technology. Thank you so much, Lynda. It has been a pleasure speaking with you.
Lynda: My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.