Business Unusual

Writing is not what it used to be, OMG - lol

A statement by the Presidency following the G20 summit included a reference to the coming impact of the shifts in technology defined by the World Economic Forum as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

“President Zuma said that: ‘For Africa not to be left behind, we must ensure the transfer of technology and investment in skills. In this regard, protection of intellectual property rights should not be used to exclude or create barriers to Africa's industrialisation. We further recognise that without peace and security there can be no sustainable development or meaningful economic growth.’“

It is not the first acknowledgement of the coming changes. However, the challenges are likely to be greater than have been addressed so far.

Change is inevitable and, normally, good.

Here are two changes to expect: language as we know it will change and writing code (the kind computers use) will become as important a skill as writing language.

Formal writing has been around for thousands of years - it is a defining aspect of human civilisation. From a skill reserved for only a few to an ability that almost 90% of the planet’s young possess. It may have taken almost 600 years, but the greatest improvements have come in just the last 50 years.

Letters gave way to faxes and emails; both make communicating easier and, over time, less formal.

Mobile communication - despite allowing voice communication from anywhere - found that the humble text message would be a cheaper and more popular option. The limited space required the language to become truncated and transform a colon and round close bracket into a smile :). In Japan, a language based on pictographs took the step to create new pictographs to show a variety of emotions and called them emoji.

They were a hit and not only spread around the world but now number over 1000 and you can request new ones.

But before you declare victory with a dancing lady, consider that more and more people don’t even write, they simply dictate and let their phone do the typing. You can even add a smiley face if you want.

A popular image highlighting the issue with acronyms and everyone knowing what they mean.

Websites like Urban Dictionary track new works and changes in the use of the language but, be warned, that some of the contributions are NSFW (Not safe for work).

So what about the computer code?

Programming languages are being rewritten to make them simpler and more like natural language which would allow children to write some impressive programs in hardly any time. That ability will give them not only a needed skill to compete during the 4th Industrial Revolution, but may allow them to be the next Elon Musk or creator of the next Uber application. is one of the foundations looking to give more people access to coding and are great for parents and children to learn together.

There are many organisations that are invested in improving coding skills of young and old, some as a business offering a means to a career for the future while others to try and catch up with the significant lack of available skills and the current demand.

Like all skills, not everyone is guaranteed success simply because they can code. Those with an aptitude though, especially if identified at a young age, will certainly have a bright future.

Parents and those already in careers would also benefit from learning the skill as more of the global economy shifts to an information economy and the ability to understand and manage data becomes not only more commonplace, but critical..

To demonstrate how much language has changed recently, versus the how long the changes have taken over time, see if you can work out the title of the Shakespeare play listed in emoji below (from just last year) and compare it to how well you can understand the language used in the plays themselves from hundreds of years ago.

Did you guess it was Taming of the Shrew? Take the rest of the quiz by Buzzfeed.

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