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Switch to problem-solving mode

Switch to problem-solving mode

Middle age is not the best time to start learning about modern things such as programming languages (python, JavaScript, Kotlin, Ruby, PHP etc), artificial intelligence, the internet of things, machine learning and cybersecurity. In the relay race of life, it is perhaps time to at least think about passing on the baton to the next generation after completing your stretch. 

But what if you have not arrived, as yet? What if you want to continue to dig deeper into your mind and see if you can solve some of the problems that are cakewalk for prodigies. You see, your mind is programmed to solve problems, whether it’s young or old. The idea is to keep your mind young and healthy because this thing with infinite potential does not rust as long as you keep using it.    

So, you keep going, against all odds, mustering every ounce of your energy. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  

For those caught in a pass, Martin Luther King Jr offers his nugget of wisdom: “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

These are very interesting times to grow up. Technologies are evolving rapidly and it is becoming quite difficult to keep pace with them, even for young and energetic minds, leave alone the graying ones.   

This is a quantum leap from the times when we used to wait for our turn to use those cranky desktop computers for about 30 minutes at one go at those hole-in-the-wall cyber cafes in our neighborhoods. 

Many young children of this day and age, especially in our society, do not seem quite aware of this rapidly changing technological ecosystem and challenges it poses to them. A cursory observation shows many young minds around us are hooked to electronic devices like mobile phones, laptops, palmtops and television sets as users/consumers. Many of them remain awake till late at night, watching the soap, chatting online or playing games, often exposing themselves to cybersecurity threats unknowingly. 

Is the cybersecurity system of a country, which ranks 109th out of 160 countries on the National Cyber Security Index, 94th on the Global Cybersecurity Index and a lowly 140th on the ICT Development Index, aware of this threat? Even if it is, is it doing anything tangible to minimize the threat?

Virtual activities have become a way of life for the new generation in the midst of their formative years, taking a huge toll on their physical and mental development, as they hardly socialize and rarely engage in physical activities. 

School curricula, an integral part of the education system, should be revised to tackle this challenge and make schools, schoolchildren and guardians better prepared for dealing with cybersecurity threats facing these children. Our education system should also cater to young minds, who want to embrace evolving technologies big time by becoming coders, programmers, AI experts or cybersecurity experts, etc.

On their part, our enthusiastic minds should wake up to exciting opportunities available online. Google offers free online courses, so do,, Cisco and several other sites. Basic  courses are free whereas specialized courses with certifications cost quite a bit. 

As they say, if you have a will, there is a way. 

As for inspiration, there is no dearth of geeks. Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are some of the names that come to mind. 

You don’t relate with them because they do not represent your generation? 

Then think of Antonio Garcia Vicente, a 15-year-old from Spain, who is well-versed in at least four programming languages and has worked on over a hundred programming projects, including video games and mobile applications that involve robotics and artificial intelligence. 

Isn’t that like a prodigy? 

What about Tanmay Bakshi, an 18-year-old Canadian, who wears many hats. He is a TED and global keynote speaker, Google developer expert for ML, advisory software engineer at IBM, visiting professor at iUniversity in Tokyo, bestselling author, media personality and YouTuber. Bakshi dreams of empowering at least 100,000 people in his lifetime with the technology they need to change the world.

An impressive bio, isn’t it?

Young students can also channelize their energies by finding loopholes in cybersecurity systems and plugging them for the greater good of their countries as well as international cybersecurity systems. 

Though the word hacker does not go very well with large sections of our society, several countries have been using hackers to find holes in their cybersecurity systems and correct them for the greater good of their populations by paying them handsomely. 

Rojan Rijal, a security analyst originally from Nepal and now based in the US, hogged the limelight in 2019 by hacking the Pentagon as part of efforts to bolster the United States’ cybersecurity. 

Cybersecurity has become a very important part of national security these days and our geeks can play an important role in improving our cybersecurity. The idea is to catch them young, train them adequately and prevent the misuse of their geniuses by utilizing them for national defense and security. 

All this will not be possible without cooperation from our prodigies-to-be. First and foremost, they should focus on becoming problem-solvers, developers, programmers and coders, not just avid users of technologies.  

Together, families and our governments at federal, provincial and local levels should tap this country’s latent geek potential in the national interest by making sure that they do not fall into wrong hands. 

The fear of failure should not deter any of the stakeholders, including our young minds. 

Let these wise words from Malcolm X (no relation with X, formerly known as Twitter!) inspire us all as this enthusiast remains stuck on some python problems at and a course on developing a demo app for a cafe, and as young minds struggle to switch to the problem-solving mode:  

“Stumbling is not falling. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time. Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.”