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This is the subject Elon Musk says young people need to study to be successful in the future

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What advice would billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk give to young people who want to be successful? Simple: study physics.

 

The SpaceX and Tesla co-founder was speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

 

Musk and the summit Chairman, His Excellency Mohammad Al Gergawi, discussed the future of artificial intelligence, space travel, autonomous vehicles and the world’s growing need for energy, all of which require people with advanced scientific knowledge.

 

Musk said: “My advice is, if you want to make progress in things, the best analytical framework… is physics.”

 

“I'd recommend studying the thinking process around physics. Not just the equations - the equations are certainly very helpful - but the way of thinking in physics. It's the best framework for understanding things that are counterintuitive.”

 

Thinkers needed

 

Musk’s comments reflect the concerns of others in industry and government who fear a technology skills shortage as older staff retire and there are not enough younger people to replace them.

 

According to the European Union’s vocational training agency Cedefop, member states are experiencing shortages in information and communications technologies, medicine, engineering and mathematics - all careers that require specialized STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) knowledge.

 

Additionally, more industries – from banking to architecture and plumbing –  are finding they are increasingly moving into a high-tech environment. The biggest department in Domino’s, for example, is the IT department, which has led the company to redefine itself as an “e-commerce company that sells pizza”.

 

Competition and confusion

 

 

This blurring of traditional lines is leading to some confusion over what is, and isn’t, a STEM profession.

 

A US Bureau of Labor report in 2015 into STEM workers said: “Depending on the definition, the size of the STEM workforce can range from 5% to 20% of all US workers. Although fields such as computer programming and mechanical engineering are generally considered STEM fields, there is less consensus on areas such as medicine, architecture, science education, social sciences, and blue-collar manufacturing work.”

 

 

Source: Shutterstock/Zhu Difeng

 

Musk, speaking in Dubai about the rate of technological change over the past century and future developments, highlighted the need for more science and maths graduates to ensure humans’ full potential is realized.

 

“When you think the first controlled power flight was in 1903 with the Wright Brothers. And then, 66 years later we put the first people on the moon … if you asked people in 1900 what are the odds of landing on the moon they would've said that's ridiculous. If you try to talk to them about the internet they wouldn't know what the heck you were even talking about. But today, with a hundred-dollar device you can video-conference with anyone in the world.”

 

The pace of change

 

Musk added there would be considerable growth in areas such as programming, machine autonomy and even space travel, but there would also be challenges

to overcome.

 

“I think we'll see autonomy and artificial intelligence advance tremendously … My guess is in probably 10 years, it will be very unusual for cars to be built that are not fully autonomous.”

 

“As it is, the Tesla cars that are made today have the sensor system necessary for full autonomy … so, it's mostly just the question of developing [and uploading] the software … You just tell it where you want to go, and it takes you there with extreme levels of safety.”