EDITOR'S NOTE: The Richland Source Gray Matters team traveled to New York City on Oct. 24 for The New Old Age summit sponsored by The Atlantic. This was one of the topics covered at that convention.

Maybe Silicon Valley has it all wrong.

The future is not algorithmic but human. And society’s push to front-load our lives is setting us up for unhappiness and limiting our potential.

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Courtney McNaull, Ashland Source Staff Reporter

Those were my top take-aways from Forbes Media publisher and futurist Rich Karlgaard, who took part in an AARP-sponsored panel to kick off The Atlantic’s “The New Old Age” summit.

Karlgaard is also a bestselling author, and his latest book is called, “Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.”

Karlgaard has spent his adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area, seeing great companies and great entreprenuers sprout from nowhere. But what he sees there today scares him.

“There’s a belief coming out of Silicon Valley that the future of humanity is going algorithmic … That the human race is going to somehow jump the curve into some combination of machine learning and what it means to be human,” Karlgaard said. “I think there’s no way you can think about that without denigrating the human being.”

Devaluing humanity has all sorts of negative consequences, but among them is a lack of appreciation for the complexities of human development across the lifespan.

We’re pushing kids and young adults too hard to achieve, disregarding the fact that some are “late bloomers,” whose brains are not fully formed.

It’s leaving high school and college students brittle and exhausted, Kaarlgard said. It’s also giving younger and middle-aged adults a fixed mindset, limiting their potential for new growth and learning.

Then, with the “up and then out” mentality in our workplaces, we’re missing out on the unique and important contributions older adults can make -- contributions like wisdom, judgement and creative output.

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Younger people may have more creative insights, Kaarlgard said, but older people have higher creative yield. That’s because their memories help them synthesize information and put it to use.

So how do we capitalize on the power of age?

Karlgaard suggests blowing up the “up and out” career trajectory and instead fashioning a career arc, letting older workers (those in their 60s through their 80s) negotiate new roles that maximize the value of their experience.

“This is an opportunity for people who have left the peak pay years to kind of become the coach or consultant, particularly working to scale up millenials in things like judgement that they may lack,” Kaarlgard said.

Making this happen could present some legal and HR challenges, but the value of doing it -- and the cost of not doing it -- cannot be ignored.

Creating career arcs and fostering intergenerational workplaces could make us all happier and more productive, especially as longer life becomes the norm.

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