• Joe Haig

Hacker Mindsets

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

Maybe we need to rethink the “predict and position” future-proofing model.

As educators, we've always tried to set students up for success by teaching them the skills we think they’ll need. The problem is, none of us know how all the shifts we’re witnessing will settle or what further shifts they’ll trigger. Predicting the future is a hit and miss business. As Dan Gregory and Keiren Flanaghan point out in their book Forever Skills, "There's a reason futurists, social demographers and economists don't offer money back guarantees."

In the fast-moving digital age, teachers who rely on the predict and position model risk becoming blindfolded coaches shouting irrelevant instructions from the sidelines. We’re not sure how to play the game because it hasn’t been invented yet.

Education isn't a particularly agile industry. The strategies we're using to prepare children for the future tend to be conceived from a reactive mindset. There's a feeling that someone or something (Big Tech? Government? Elon Musk?) is going to shape our future - pitch it at us - and we need to scramble into position so we're in the right place when it lands.

There's a fundamental problem with this way of thinking: when we teach children that the future is something that's going to happen to them, we’re teaching them that they have little power or control over their destiny. There’s an underlying assumption that they're at the mercy of change and progress which will be inflicted on them by others.

Wouldn’t a wiser, braver strategy be to teach children to decide what’s going to happen and to try to help them learn how to make it happen? As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to design it.”

We should be looking to a more innovative industry for a better model. Technologists are the people shaping our future. What sets them apart, and how have they acquired such influence?

Hacker mindsets.

If we want to inspire students to create their own futures, we need to help them develop hacker mindsets. Hacking is about understanding systems and leveraging them to assume power and gain control. That's why there's a landslide of power and control shifting towards technologists - they understand this principle.

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said the platform is “exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” The hacker mindset helps technologists find back doors and vulnerabilities in digital and non-digital systems to create their preferred reality. Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, said "A hacker to me is someone creative who does wonderful things".

The future is hackable. The access point, the backdoor to your students' optimum future state, is your classroom. Our children have an amazing future ahead of them - we just need to help them learn how to make it happen.