We are living in times that it is impossible to predict the future, but precisely because of this, it has never been so important to think about it. In this paper, the author brings to light the greatest challenge of this century for humanity: education. He explores the historical relevance of the current moment, analyze demographic data, and discourse about the urgency of developing virtuous leaders like Mandela.
We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else be here?
There is a common belief that on your last day on Earth, the person you became wil meet the person you could have become. True or not, we should pursuit a future where people could become their own best versions. Steve Jobs’ mantra: “We are here to put a dent in the universe” is a metaphor that expresses the essence of living a meaningful life and build such revolutionary change that could benefit mankind in an unprecedented scale.
In nearly 300,000 years of human history, several individuals made dents in the universe: from Mandela's leadership, Einstein's intelligence, Senna’s persistence, or even Mother Teresa's generosity, distinguished individuals proved that humans could break unimaginable boundaries and redefine the maximum of our potential. So, what differentiate these remarkable individuals from the regular ones?
I did this question 10 years ago, when I lectured at the EJT Meeting, a youth conference in Brazil that I created with some colleagues in 2012. Our purpose was to bring together the
most engaged social activists to discuss how this generation could solve our country's main
Back then, I believed that the most influential young people in the country should come together and engage in common causes in favor of our society. I understood that a small, well-meaning team, with a common goal, was powerful enough to cause great transformations in the world. In fact, throughout our history this is exactly how it ever happened.
When you analyze a long-term horizon, what do you think is the main challenge of our society?
There are more than 210 million inhabitants in this "continental country" named Brazil. According to IPEA, Brazilians will reach, at most, 233 million inhabitants by 2047. Two thirds
of young people will come from the poorest families, where population growth is more pronounced. This will be the pinnacle of Brazil’s populational growth.
In other words, it is the moment when Brazil will have more people in working age than it ever had, and it will ever have. After that, it will be the beginning of its populational decline. UN estimates that by 2,100 Brazilians will be up to 180 million inhabitants.
Check it out this chart:
A demographic chart can be used as a mirror, reflecting the real situation of a certain countries’ population. But it is even more powerful when used as a binocular, showing what
lies ahead and revealing hidden opportunities.
This chart reveals a window of opportunity that Brazil cannot miss: Education. It will be the ability to educate its citizens for the future that will define Brazil’s success as a nation.
Prepare the largest number of inhabitants that Brazil ever had in its history, and which will ever have in its future, to face the challenges of our times: (i) live in a world with finite resources; (ii) deal with the climate change; (iii) adapt to rapidly technological disruptions; and (iv) collaborate in a diverse and interdependent society, are not only Brazil’s, but also any country’s most important challenges in this century.
We have already lived more than 1/5 of the 21st century, and with it comes a whole new game. In this century, the most important asset of a company, a country or a society are
the brains that are part of it. In a constantly changing labor market, where employment is becoming increasingly scarce and manual activities increasingly automated, intellectual capital is decisive in defining who will prosper.
Therefore, the real question we must ask ourselves is: how are we preparing the greatest number of brains that ever exist in homo sapiens’ entire history?
The greatest of all tasks
Demography cannot be negotiated. The best one can do is understand it and act beforehand. Although the future is not yet written, it is certain that we are living in decisive moments, and since the best way to predict the future is to create it, the time we must act is now.
There are 8,324,608 possible combinations of human chromosomes. Any of our chromosomes has developed and aligned as well as Mandela’s, Einstein’s, Senna’s, or Mother Theresa’s once did. Biologically they were no different than any one of us.
As the largest number of individuals in the homo sapiens’ history, our generation has on its hands an unprecedent potential and is under our responsibility to prepare, develop, and empower the next generation of virtuous leaders. They will find the answer to those questions that have not yet been asked.
The Ubuntu Method, created by the Ubuntu Leaders Academy, was a solution to tackle this challenge. Designed with 5 different chapters that were extracted from the lessons of the great leaders of our times, the methodology addresses Self-knowledge, Self-confidence, Resilience, Empathy and Service, as the main characteristics to develop in this new kind of leadership.
The future will be decided in education
We are living in times that it is impossible to predict the future, but precisely because of this, it has never been so important to think about it. Big changes will happen in our world in the coming years. The government, private sector, third sector and civil society need to prepare for a new scenario. Our demography has changed and will continue to change. And this is not a problem, but a fact.
The role of education in the 21st century should not be seen as a factory for the labor market, nor an ideological deuteriation tool for politics. Education frees, transforms, and
empowers. With it, we will have citizens more aware of their rights and duties, a greener and sustainable economy, a more prosperous society, and human beings realizing their full potential. It is the most important task of our times, and we cannot fail.
The future is certainly decided in education, because without education there is no future.
United Nations, DESA. 2019. Population Division. World Population Prospects 2019.
Leitão, Miriam. (2015). Historia do Futuro: O horizonte do Brasil no século XXI. Editora
O’Neil, Dennis. (1998-2013). Recombination and Linkage. https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/biobasis/bio_3.htm
Gonçalves, José Luis. Fernandes, Joana Lobo. Rogowki, Achilles. (2021). Pillars of the Ubuntu Method – Self-knowledge, Chapter 1. Ubuntu Leaders Academy.
Oliveira, Ana. (2021). Pillars of the Ubuntu Method – Self-Confidence, Chapter 2. Ubuntu Leaders Academy.
Forte, Ana Casto. Santos, Júlio. Anzini, Patrícia. (2021). Pillars of the Ubuntu Method – Resilence, Chapter 3. Ubuntu Leaders Academy.
Madalena Susana, Alarcão. Fonseca. (2021). Pillars of the Ubuntu Method – Empathy, Chapter 4. Ubuntu Leaders Academy.
Montenegro, Elsa. Pedro, João. Gaspar. (2021). Pillars of the Ubuntu Method – Service, Chapter 5. Ubuntu Leaders Academy.