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Societal Progress (+Your Progress)


Subramanian Rangan

Societal progress: If you were "ruler of the world" what would your aspiration be for the world? This is an age-old question, and responses evolve over time and space. In time, every generation including yours has a duty to reflect on this (vague, open ended) question. An "answer” is necessary to assess how the world is doing and whether we are making “progress.” It will help you reflect on whether and what we might do better/ differently. It should provoke some thoughts about what role if any you, when you grow up, might play in this.

Choices and decisions: The world of work seems full of decisions. Indeed, it is to make good decisions that we are taught subjects like math and engineering, finance and economics, science and medicine... Yet our life is so much the result of our choices (rather than decisions). Are the concepts of decisions and choices really different? Which matters more? when to decide and when to choose? How can you improve your odds of making wise choices?

Non-cognitive skills: If you were to “hire” someone for an important project (say at your company, or government, etc.) what skills will you likely look for? Your answer will no doubt depend on the specific task, but to what extent will you emphasize basic skills (reading, writing, numeracy), functional skills (credentials, expertise, experience), or behavior skills (reliability, problem solving...)? I don’t know how true this is, but it is said “people get hired for functional skills, but fired for behavioral skills.” Alas, generally, in school and college the emphasis is on basic and functional skills (what are known as cognitive skills). What about behavioral (or what are also known as non-cognitive) skills? What are the important ones and how might you learn them?


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