The 50 essential skills for surviving modern life

The 50 essential skills for surviving modern life

Summary: Times have changed and old skills such as darning socks have been replaced by new ones such as searching the internet. A KAZ survey has turned up the Top 50 skills people need for modern life, and this is your workforce today...

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Internet search at Bing: a vital skill?

You no longer need to be able to make a fire using two dry sticks, skin a rabbit, or even wield a soldering iron, but you still need certain skills to cope with modern life. According to a survey of 2,000 adults by UK-based, the top four life skills are now searching the internet, operating a mobile phone, connecting to Wi-Fi, and mastering online banking.

Other tech skills -- using the word loosely -- include using a USB charger and an SD card, uploading photographs, downloading music, and booking cheap flights. It seems you also need to know how to use Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Google Maps, Skype and Twitter. The Top 50 list is below.

It's hard to believe that the ability to plug in a USB cable counts as a "skill". Presumably it is or Apple wouldn't have developed a port that removes the difficult challenge of getting it the right way up. Perhaps Apple babies will no longer need to practice putting wooden blocks in differently-shaped holes….

Are people who struggle to plug in a USB cable just not tech-savvy, but would still be able survive in the wilderness? The list's non-tech skills suggest not. They include learning to cook, reheating food in a microwave, and "How to order at fast food restaurants".

The extent to which modern life has been dumbed down is illustrated by a companion list of the "Top 20 skills no longer essential to know". This is headed by darning and kitting, but includes putting up a shelf, writing letters, and speaking a foreign language.

But many of the adults surveyed don't see the shift from physical to virtual skills as a dumbing down. Indeed, "85 percent of Brits think modern technology has simply changed the skills we need, with a third believing we are actually more skilled than previous generations." However, "six in ten Brits admitted they would struggle to do some of the 'outdated' skills."

The survey was undertaken for KAZ (from Keyboard A to Z), which provides software that quickly teaches people to touch-type. Happily for the company, touch-typing is still an important life-skill, and hasn't been replaced either by different approaches (eg Swype) or by voice dictation.

KAZ says: "If anything, touch-typing is only becoming more important over time as so many careers now rely on computers more than ever for their day-to-day work."


Top 50 essential skills for modern life

  1. Searching the internet
  2. Operating a mobile phone
  3. Connecting WiFi
  4. Mastering online banking
  5. Learn to cook
  6. Being able to turn off the water at the mains
  7. Knowing what goes in which recycling bin
  8. Knowing about privacy settings online
  9. Use a calculator
  10. Using a self-service checkout
  11. Search and apply for jobs online
  12. Use Google maps
  13. Updating/installing computer programmes
  14. Being able to use sat-nav
  15. Touch typing
  16. Re-heat food in the microwave
  17. Checking in online prior to getting to the airport
  18. Uploading photographs
  19. Communicate via Facebook
  20. Change settings on the thermostat
  21. Book cheap flights
  22. Working a tablet
  23. Use a USB charger
  24. Work out the underground
  25. Use voucher discount websites
  26. Set up a wireless printer
  27. Download music
  28. Tuning HDTV
  29. How to order at fast food restaurants
  30. Have an amazon account
  31. Know how to use an SD card
  32. Setting up Sky/cable
  33. Sell and buy via auction websites
  34. Series linking television shows
  35. Social media savvy
  36. Use Bluetooth
  37. Changing the clock on your oven
  38. Communicate via Skype
  39. Using hands free in the car
  40. Working a Smart TV
  41. Book cinema tickets online
  42. Syncing iTunes
  43. Communicate via Twitter
  44. Transfer money via your phone
  45. Connecting the laptop to the TV
  46. How to put on an out of office
  47. Learn new skills via YouTube
  48. Know how to download movies/torrents
  49. Pay for parking via your phone
  50. Find the best prices by scanning barcodes on your phone

Topics: After Hours, United Kingdom

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • The 50 essential skills for surviving modern life

    51. How to use a Mac
    52. How to use Windows 8
  • Seriously?

    Lets be realistic.

    Use a Mac - that might be important to about 1.3% of the population.
    Windows 8 - let me know when you figure that out and I'll sign up.
    • RE: Seriously

      I think understanding multiple OSs is quite important. No?
  • Underground?

    What does "24 - Work out the underground" even mean? I honestly do not know.
    • RE: Underground

      He is referring to the London Underground. I think it would have been clearer to say - 'Understand your local transport system/metro/subway etc'
      • Correct!

        I just c&p'd the original list, sorry...
        Rgds, Jack
        Jack Schofield
  • Oh-dark-thirty

    I had to laugh at #37, "Changing the clock on your oven." I moved in with this lady 6 years ago, and the whole time the clock on her oven has been displaying military time. That's not the end of the world, but it's annoying. She assured me there was no way to change it. And indeed I'd gone through the manual cover-to-cover and there was no way to change it.

    For some reason, last night, after living with this annoyance for six years, I applied Skill #1, "Searching the Internet" to see if anyone had figured it out. YES!! Hold down the oven and broil keys at the same time, count top three, twirl around five times on your toes, and then press the CLOCK button while it cycled through 12hr, 24hr, and Off.

    Grrr. Why didn't they just put that in the manual.
    Robert Hahn