Having graduated last week I find myself at home with a lot of time on my hands. Time spent slowly oscillating between hopes for my future and dread of a meaningless life.
But in my bipolar state, I have carved out some time to think. I have been playing around a lot with the idea of potential jobs and what the future holds for careers. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that with the advancement of technology, the jobs that would be best suited for people like me (or not like me) are being quickly eaten up.
And then I ask myself: is that such a bad thing? Hmm…
I want you to try a little exercise with me and it’s going to involve you using your imagination.
Close your eyes and let’s go a decade or two into the future. What’s going on? What do you see?
One thing you should see besides all the awesome scantily clad sexy or absurdly obese (we do live in America after all) future people are the machines and technology that will be everywhere. Much more so than it is now. They’ll be in our homes, in our communities and most profoundly they are going to be crowding out our work places.
Can you see it now? Can you picture a world where robots and machinery become so advanced that they take over our middle class and lower class jobs. Robots making deliveries, cooking burgers at McDonalds, doing your accounting work. With all of these robots doing the things we used to do, much more efficiently than we used to do them, it won’t be long until the work force won’t be made of flesh and blood but iron and oil. These robots will automate the work and destroy the work force. This sounds scary. But maybe it’s not.
Now. OPEN YOUR EYES (how you would still be reading if your eyes were closed I’m not sure).
The year is 2014 and the proliferation of robotics and machinery can be found in newspapers and websites EVERYWHERE. This isn’t a couple decades in the future. This is now and and it is happening everyday. And these aren’t just robots that smile and bark and beat human geniuses at Jeopardy. These are robots and machines that are being designed to take over the mundane (and in some cases the surprisingly specific) jobs that hold our economic well beings in balance.
In his article ‘How Technology is Destroying Jobs’, David Rotman details the phenomenon that has been taking place over the last several decades; the overall productivity of the United States is going through the roof, GDP is higher than ever, and yet unemployment is also on the rise. This is interesting to note but it is also a tell that the future is not too far away.
Congress and other factions of the state like to blame exporting and trade for the decrease in jobs but that is just not the case. In fact, although some jobs may be lost to outsourcing, trade has, for the most part, shifted productivity from less quality firms to more quality domestic firms.
It seems clear that robots would soon replace our work force. Humans make mistakes and are slow. Machines are designed to be meticulous and speedy. Plus you don’t have to pay them or worry about them sexually harassing each other and getting reported to HR.
Whose losing their jobs?
In a Huffington Post article on the issue we find Webb Wheel Products. This Alabama truck brake manufacturing company has increased productions significantly while not hiring a single factory worker in the past three years because of new tech.. Dwayne Ricketts, the company president, had this sentiment:
“Everyone is waiting for the unemployment rate to drop, but I don’t know if it will much. Companies in the recession learned to be more efficient, and they’re not going to go back.”
And it’s not just factory jobs and manufacturing jobs that are being lost. It’s not the simple minimum wage service jobs at fast food restaurants. Some more surprisingly sophisticated jobs are being greatly affected. Taken from an article on MIT’s Technology Review:
The most vulnerable workers are doing repetitive tasks that programmers can write software for – an accountant checking a list of numbers, an office manager filing forms, a paralegal reviewing documents for key words to help in a case. As software becomes even more sophisticated, victims are expected to include those who juggle tasks, such as supervisors and managers – workers who thought they were protected by a college degree.
What won’t robots and tech be able to do better than us?
A careful look at one of the charts on James Sherk’s article Technology Explains Drop In Manufacturing Jobs reveals that jobs are sharply declining for anyone that has not yet acquired their college degree. And those with bachelor’s degrees (myself included) should not feel comfort; job growth in that sector has greatly decelerated to only 2.4%.
But there is one beacon of hope for humanity. Jobs left for those with graduate degree or higher have seen a rise in availability by 44%.
I have mixed feelings about graduate level and higher education with the exception of medical, law and fields in which it is absolutely necessary for a degree. I don’t believe this statistic is a call to action for all students to dig themselves further into debt than before and spend even more time in school.
I think this just means its time for us as humanity to wake up.
The Wake Up Call
The fact that higher degrees equals more jobs in the future just signifies that unless you are really good at what you do, you will soon be replaced. This can be scary. But it’s a good wake up call. You must become excellent at what you do, be the only one that can do it or do it purely for love and passion.
The future seems to be a place where mediocrity will leave you hungry and poor. You must choose your craft or art, and hone it until there is no machine in the universe that can do it as well as you can.
Yes, things may get a little bumpy, but this can be a GREAT thing.
Robots will be taking over the repetitive and the low to mid skill level jobs. But with the mundane tasks out of the way, won’t humans be forced to become better at what they do or starve? Wouldn’t a greater number of people be misplaced from the jobs that weren’t fulfilling them any way and thus FORCE them to move towards a life well lived.
You must become excellent at what you do. You must offer something that no machine can. There won’t be any room for second rate accountants. You have to be the best god damn accountant around. You need to be a rock star amongst bean counters. So not many will survive but those who don’t will be tasked to find another way.
When pushed against a wall, people get creative. What will happen when the world has no choice but to become entrepreneurial. I’d like to see that day.
School’s out for… Ever.
And what would happen to our schools? No longer would we have to sit through mind numbing, senseless classes that force us to memorize fact after fact. Who needs rote memorization when machines can do that faster than we ever could?
What would schools and education consist of if not for training the masses for factory work? It could be havens to cultivate creativity and ingenuity. We could develop people to start early at making their own future. Watch one or two TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson and you’ll get an idea of the possibilities that we have with education.
There will be questions…
The potentials of technology spurs a lot of questions that won’t have clear answers until the future is smacking us in the face.
Some of my own questions:
- Does everyone have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
- Will there be social disorder due to the ‘hallowing’ out of middle class jobs?
- Are we moving towards a society that promotes excellence and people pursuing fulfilling work or are we just constructing our own demise, one little robot after another?
These are questions I do not have the answer to but I prefer to err on the positive.
Lastly – Don’t be an annoying pre teen!
How can one fight the advancement of something as inevitable as the growth of technology? It’s madness, is it not?
Trying to hide away from the fact that machines are coming and are going to drastically change the way we live and work is like a preteen dreading and trying to get away from puberty. But the same applies for technology: It’s going to suck and it will be hard to adjust. It’s going to be awkward and we’re going to be discovering parts of ourselves that we don’t really know how to use at first.
But eventually, we will all come out of it smarter, more mature and more ready to create a better world!