Will you have a job next week? Next year?
Will your skill set be valued in the job market in the years to come? If not, do you know what you need to do to keep your skills up-to-date?
Over the past few decades, we have witnessed a large number of innovations that have changed how we live and work. I have been working as a digital marketing consultant for over a decade, a job that was not even dreamed of when I graduated from college. All indications show that my job will be obsolete in the next few years as automated technologies become more sophisticated.
The jobs that help people climb up are at risk as well. I put myself through college by waiting on tables. More and more kiosks are being placed on tables allowing for people to place their orders and pay their bills. This will mean that restaurants, which already run on razor-thin profit margins, will cut costs by hiring fewer servers.
I met a retired gentleman the other day who still works as a freelance accountant. He told me what once took 5-6 people to do, he now does by himself on a part-time basis thanks to financial software enhancements.
Truck drivers need to be concerned. A self-driving semi-truck made a cross-country trip with minimal human intervention.
Every day there is a new innovation or enhancement that will change or eliminate the jobs many of us do but most people are not paying attention.
My dad worked for one company his entire career. He was a cable repairman for the phone company and he retired for medical reasons in 1986. In all his years his job did not change much. That was the world I grew up in, a world where I watched my parents and the parents of my friends work for one or two companies without having to drastically change their skill set. Yes, there were job losses due to economic downturns or poor business habits, but the types of jobs that people performed did not go away.
Those who are paying attention are not doing enough to prepare. A recent study revealed that 65% of respondents agree that jobs industries will suffer because of automation, but they believe they will be fine. Only 3% of respondents were concerned about losing a job to a “robot.”
It is misleading to talk about “robots” taking our jobs because people often envision a humanoid. However, as an example, social media is currently swarming with bots. There are bots that will answer your question and bots that will grow your following, and bots that will promote your agenda, and bots that will engage on posts for you, and so on. All of those “bots” are basically code, it is not a humanoid robot behind a computer.
No matter your job, the skills needed to do it will become devalued in the near future.
Teachers are faced with a growing popularity of online classes.
Managers should be studying how platforms such as Uber are eliminating middle management.
The changes in the workforce are wreaking havoc on our political discourse. Our current political breakdown is rooted in a large segment of Americans feeling left behind, lost, and not recognizing this world that is emerging. People are scared and for good reason. A strong political leader would explain to them that the world is changing and would invest in helping people to enhance their skill set as well as begin studying what other social investments need to be made such as Universal Healthcare that would cover freelancers, students, entrepreneurs, and people who have been displaced.
Instead, we have too many leaders who pander to the dream of returning to a time when the world had fewer disruptions and jobs were safer. Politicians know they are speaking to regular people who have lives to lead and spend their days working longer hours for less pay and then spending time with friends and family. Most people are not reading about AI or Automation, they do not have the time. Unfortunately, it seems as though our politicians are more invested in talking points that will get them elected than in providing insights that will empower their citizens.
There are two main reasons why disruptive innovations will continue to accelerate and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them. The first is Capitalism, an economic system that values efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Computers will continue to outperform humans and therefore will be valued over human labor more and more. The other reason is global competition. No matter what the trade agreements are, if other countries are outperforming us technically we will lose.
If we continue to think our jobs are not at risk, if we continue to not hold our political leaders accountable for preparing our workforce for the future, if we continue to spend our time and energy wanting to go backward to a more simpler time, if we continue to stay ignorant of how rapidly the world is changing, it may become the downfall of us all.