Did you ever think about the fact that only humans have hands? It may seem obvious, but it’s not. In the world of nature, we humans are uniquely vulnerable: wings, paws or flippers get you around a lot faster and farther; fur and feathers provide protection from the elements; refined senses, instincts, and defense mechanisms automatically kick in to ward off dangers and detect opportunities for growth.
But our vulnerability is at the same time our strength.
With our hands, we can build wings to fly.
With our hands, we can design our own habitat and weave our own wear.
With our hands, we can provide care, establish relations, protect ourselves and others.
Our hands are instruments open to infinite possibilities. 1
With our hands, we humanize the world.
Our basic needs become arts and professions: Medicine, Gastronomy, Architecture, Engineering, Fashion, Communication, Education, Domestic Work, Design;
Our interdependence creates employment opportunities: Commerce, Health Care, Politics, Law, Economy, Business, International Affairs;
Our openness to infinite possibilities drives work forward: Technology, Entertainment, Innovation, Research, Creativity.
With our hands, we work. But have we always worked in the same way? Today the world of work is undergoing arguably the most drastic transformation since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. Information technology, shifting social demographics and globalization are some of the factors that are shaping the future of work, in which one-track careers are being replaced by multi-faceted professional trajectories, and personal capacities and aptitudes such as critical thinking, resilience, problem-solving and decision-making are increasingly valued over technical know-how.
The world of work in the 21st century is full of challenges: vast geographic and social inequalities, corruption, inefficient structures, forced labor, unrecognized and uncompensated work, human trafficking, unregulated activity in emerging sectors and high levels of youth unemployment, etc.
So let’s get down to business. The 21st century professional is serious, dedicated, diligent, creative, transformational, focused, capable of persevering in an integrated cognitive and physical effort. What kind of personal development does a professional in today’s workforce need in order to convert needs into opportunities and vulnerabilities into strengths? How does our profession become an authentic service to society and the individuals who surround us? What can our hands do that a robotic arm cannot? What can we contribute that lies beyond the scope of artificial intelligence? The challenges are many… but our hands are open to infinite possibilities…
1 - “It follows that the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is a tool of tools, so the mind is the form of forms and sense the form of sensible things”. De Anima. Book 3, part 8.