Everyone relax: jobs aren’t disappearing, they’re changing

I’ve read several articles like this one over the past few weeks that ponder the negative effects of technological advancement: job loss due to automation, isolation due to virtual reality, armageddon due to uncontrollable artificial intelligence, etc.

These are real concerns, but maybe the fear is overhyped.

In particular, I want to look more closely at the future of employment. We hear a lot about what kind of jobs will be taken away by technology in the future, but not enough about what kind of jobs it will create.

While technology will force many people to adjust, it will also provide the tools to do so effectively.

Someone asked me recently: do you care about the coal miners? Do you think we should subsidize an essentially defunct industry so that people can keep their jobs? Look, I am a left-leaning guy — but keeping a value-less industry running for the illusion of employment is hard to justify.

The real solution: people need to adjust. It’s short-sighted to be concerned with legacy industries being disrupted by technology, because it’s something we’ll see over and over again and at a much faster pace.

Recent example: Uber and Lyft drivers currently outnumber yellow cab drivers 4 to 1 in NYC, and these apps have only been around for less than a decade. And the crazy thing is: in another decade, all of these cars may be self-driving. So we’ll have seen the disruption of an industry twice, before a person born in 2010 can legally buy a beer.

But remember: how did the scale of these transportation network companies effect your life? If you’re not a yellow cab driver, then probably for the better*. It’s simply a better user experience to request a ride, receive a time and price estimate, and be notified when your car arrives than it is to stand outside, rain or shine, trying to flag down a ride.

*I’ve spoke with many taxicab drivers that saw where the industry was headed and transitioned to driving for Uber or Lyft. This is worth highlighting because rapid change is the new normal and if you prefer a false notion of stability over progress, you will struggle more than those willing to adapt.

Industries that will open up due to technology

  1. Software Development: Every company is becoming a software company in some way or another. It follows that in the next few years, we’ll see software development become a much more ubiquitous skill set. And while technology may very well replace the mundane tasks of humans, we still need human creativity / ingenuity to architect and refine these solutions. Emmanuel Strachnov, Co-Founder of Bubble, writes:
With more accessible programming, farmers could program robots to intelligently tend crops based on local soil conditions; teachers could build software to adjust their teaching based on what happened the day before around the school; chefs could set up systems to buy fresh fish from the nearby market in real time as people place orders. Software tools should be created by their users, because their users know their needs better than anyone else.

2. Renewable Energy: The popularity of solar, wind, and water will increase dramatically over the next few decades and the potential job market around this initiative is tremendous. Naomi Klein, writer of the ambitious book This Changes Everything, cites the Energy Transition in Germany and notes that 400,000 new jobs have already been created there.

From The Solutions Project website.

3. Intelligent Cities: The “smart cities” market will be worth $800 billion by 2020, driven by big data and IoT. And as cities become smarter, the number of traditional tech jobs will skyrocket, along with countless hybrid positions that utilize skills across multiple job categories. Technology will be the backbone to modernizing our urban centers in order to improve everything from mass transit and public safety to our water supply and energy consumption. With business like stae building development platforms for cities, we’ll see a new generation of mom and pop software/dev shops building small but profitable apps within and for their communities.

image credit: NCTA — There are already more connected devices than humans.

Further Reading

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