No, I am not echoing Clint Eastwood. My P is much more damning — we are a becoming a generation of pessimists.
I have just released my new book, Silicon Collar. It is meant to combat widespread pessimism about machines killing millions of jobs. But beyond the technological angle of my book, I saw all kinds of pessimism driven by inequality, student debt, and a variety of other factors
I am an immigrant to the US. I came here four decades ago, drawn by the powerful force of American optimism. We have it in our DNA. Alexis de Tocqueville observed at the beginning of the 19th century that Americans “have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man”
So, it bothered me as I wrote the book to see so much pessimism. Because much of the pessimism is based on half truths and twisted facts.
Yes, we have moved away from our parent’s lifetime employment, plates for 25 years of service and their pensions. In exchange, though, we have gained a remarkable labor economy.
Never before have Americans had so much choice in occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies workers into one of 840 detailed occupations, in accordance with the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. CareerPlanners.com does an even more granular listing of job descriptions, and lists 12,000 separate jobs. Given the growing influence of STEM in our economy, the 2018 SOC should have significant updates. FastCompany’s projection of jobs in the next decade includes Urban Farmers, Neuro-Implant Technicians and Virtual Reality Experience Designer
Never before have Americans had the opportunity for second, third and later acts in their careers. We are changing jobs every few years. And doing so in ways our parents would drool over. Our parents did not have franchise opportunities which today keep 9 million Americans busy. They could not become platform participants. Today Amazon, Apple,eBay, Google, Uber and many others allow millions an opportunity for supplemental income. Stop by a local Whole Foods and flip through an issue of Natural Awakenings, a publication which carries ads from practitioners in the growing “alternative healthcare” market. This includes acupuncturists, yoga instructors and herbalists among others. This represents an entire services sector that did not exist a couple of decades ago. I could go on.
Never before has technology made work so safe, smart or speedy. In the book, I have examples from 50+ work settings in just about every industry where robotics, machine learning, drones, wearables and other technology are acting as “colleagues” to humans and doing our dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. I also provide example after example from the last century of how society only gradually absorbs automation. No need to panic about jobless futures any time soon.
We are letting politicians get us angry about the “one percenters”. Look carefully at IRS data. If you ignore the top 1%, the rest of us report $ 7 trillion in Adjusted Gross Income. That’s after adjustments, which means even us less fortunate still report a big pie of $ 10 trillion of income. Not that dire.
We are letting politicians get us angry about immigrants taking our jobs. Look carefully at BLS data. For the last three years, it has been reporting at least 4 million unfilled jobs in every monthly report. Add to that the virtually limitless number of jobs that platforms and other new sources of work can support. Not at all dire.
As an analyst I have been trained to not counter emotion with emotion. All I can ask my fellow citizens is to look at the facts, not at the rumors and fear mongering.
And to keep believing in the American Dream. You don’t have to be an immigrant to do so.