Xconomists Peer into the Future, Suggest How Students Should Prepare

Xconomy National — 

[Updated, Jan. 18, 2012—The Xconomist Report on the Future of Education is live—click here.]

As the presidential race picks up steam, you know that we will be hearing a lot—a lot more, that is—about the need to create jobs. But where will those jobs come from, and what fields are really likely to spur growth over the next decade? These are questions that anyone interested in the country’s economic well-being wants answered. And they might be especially on the minds of millions of college students contemplating an uncertain job market, and millions of high school students who just finished their college applications for next fall.

There are a lot of places to turn for answers. But Xconomy decided to look no further than its own advisors, the Xconomists. This group includes some of the world’s leading innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, and investors across an array of fields, who have a unique eye on the future. Their attention is largely on the innovation that leads to exponential growth and, ultimately, jobs. So we asked them one question designed to cut through the worry and haze:

What should students be studying now to prepare for 10 years from now?

The result, which will debut tomorrow morning, is our Xconomist Report on the Future of Education. It includes insights from the likes of Vinod Khosla, Esther Dyson, Nathan Myhrvold, and Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, along with 18 other of the nation’s leading thinkers—and doers—in innovation.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and now an internationally known venture capitalist, asserts that an “updated curriculum should eclipse the archaic view of liberal education still favored by institutions like Harvard and Yale based on a worldview from the 1800s.” He recommends that schools (and students) put their efforts into economics, statistics, mathematics, and programming while making areas such as history and literature “optional subjects.”

For her part, Dyson, a renowned angel investor and tech guru, suggests pursuing new tools for extracting meaning from the vast amount of data being collected about a wide range of subjects. She envisions putting that data and knowledge to work to do things like inventing 3D personal printers or terraforming asteroids.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services CTO Todd Park, another of our contributors, says flatly, “Students should be studying how to start things—how to create and grow new products, initiatives, ventures, and enterprises—a skill set that never goes out of style.”

We hope you’ll check back tomorrow to read the full report and join in the debate and discussion it’s sure to inspire. We think the Xconomists have provided some valuable insights about where the future is headed—and how students can prepare themselves to make the most of it.