Automation will slice you up

William Murdoch began experimenting with using coal gas as a way to illuminate the city streets in 1790. It took years to perfect his invention, and in 1807 Pall Mall became the first street in London to be lit by gas.

The technology spread to France and the United States and by the turn of the 20th Century most European and American cities were lit by gas. The infrastructure was in place to deliver the gas to the lamps and the city streets became much safer as a result. Fewer shadows for the likes Jack the Rippers to lurk in.

Photo by Rory Björkman on Unsplash

New jobs were created in the form of teams of Lamplighters, who would travel round to every single lamp and light them at dusk and they would return in the morning to put the lights out again. They were also responsible for maintaining the lamps and making sure that they were safe and operational.

For the people who became Lamplighters, this new technology must have seemed like a blessing from above. They had a job for life! After all, now that the cities were growing, there would always be work for a Lamplighter!

Meanwhile, the first few buildings and streets were being lit by gas, Humphry Davy was busy with his experiments. He planned on harnessing the power of electricity to create the first electric light. It would take Thomas Edison another 76 years to finally come up with the electric light bulb.

While it took time to create the technology, once developed, the speed of adoption was swift and by the beginning of the 20th century, electric street lighting took over. Now there are just a few historic examples of gas street lights.

The world will always move on sooner than most would have expected. It took 40 years for radio to reach a penetration of 10 million users. For TV it took only 15 years. Netscape did the same in 3 years and for Instagram, it took only 11 months.

Knowing the trend, is there such a thing as a job for life?

The amount of automation grows steeply in the software industry. It’s an increasing part of everyday life. Just like slicing a chunk of cheese, the advancing automation shaves obvious, recurring and complex tasks from your hands on a steady pace.

It’s is what hotel booking portals already do faster than any human could. Everybody uses them, nobody makes a fuzz about it. Yet, in my domain, the software testing, we still make a big deal about the manual vs. automation discussion. There’s no point to it. Everybody uses tools to the best of their abilities given what they try to achieve. To stay on the edge of development there are three core things to do.

  1. Learn to experiment with new tools as soon as they hit your radar.
  2. Learn more skills that are really really hard for a machine to do.
  3. Learn to seek to make yourself obsolete. If you don’t do it, someone else will solve you for you.

There is no such thing as a job for life anymore. The world will move on with or without your consent. If you don’t start dealing with it today, who would do it for you?