I spent a few days over the Christmas break down at my parents house near the beach on the Mornington Peninsula and hung out with my brothers, sisters in law, and my nephews and nieces.
During one of our later night discussions which are always willing but friendly one of my sisters in law posed the question of what my view was on what they should be advising their children on their future work prospects and directions. We had a bit of a discussion on that but then I sat down and collated a few thoughts for them and some things I think they should read. This is the gist of that advice:
Bottom line is that I believe that we are at the edge of a technological revolution in robotics and artificial intelligence.
Advances in robotics that include cheaper and better sensors and intelligence capacity will move them beyond manufacturing and into cooperative manufacturing, and assisting and replacing humans in all sorts of physical tasks.
Advances in artificial intelligence due to massive increases in computing power and moves towards much better natural language computers/semantic knowledge/deep machine learning will move computer intelligence out of just replacement of easily routinised jobs due to data crunching capacity, and into many more areas of human work – e.g. computer assisted journalism
There are really two scenarios here – that we will see more changes than we can imagine as in the industrial revolution, and more and more jobs will be created, or large slabs of jobs will disappear for ever and not be replaced, and that will cause significant disruption and competition for work unless we move to a new way of having an economy. Now you can take the Luddite view or you can take an optimistic view but the key to thinking about the future is to create a strategy that deals with multiple possible futures as well as you can, whilst understanding that most of the futures you can think up will probably not go close to mapping what the world will look like.
Just to put this in context my youngest niece will probably not enter the workforce until at least 2025, and more probably 2030 and will then have a working life which is likely to extend to 2080 so we are talking about long time frames here.
So what advice would I give to a parent of a 5-15 year old at the moment.
The key is involvement in :
- Jobs that are not easily routinised – my brother mentioned plumbing and other trades and he was right– the capacity to carry out a complicated task that is different every time and interact with people will still be highly human centered.
- Jobs with high levels of manual dexterity – robotics still find that hard to master although some systems of surgery are better than people already.
- Jobs that require high levels of empathy and capacity to interact with people – e.g. aged care, teaching, although stuff like retail is likely to become more data and network facilitated than through an individual shopping experience.
- Jobs that require the capacity to coach and facilitate networks to perform rather than the current emphasis on managers and hierarchies – requires empathy as well.
- Jobs centred around the ability to find insight in data – assisted by AI but value added by people.
- Jobs that are highly creative and require visions and connection.
- Jobs that cross the boundaries of the jobs types I have listed above.
- Jobs centered around the ability to code
In terms of thinking about this more I would recommend looking at the following
Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs – by the fantastic Kevin Kelly
Algorithms, Robots and the Future of Management – a previous post by me with a great addition from my friend and colleague Stowe Boyd
I also recommend you read Stowe’s :Beneath the chatter about the Future Of Work lies a discontinuity which I think is more about the near future than the long future.
The IFTF report on future work skills – details drivers and skills
In the end we can give all the clinical and logical advice we like but the most important thing for them to do is to pursue what they are passionate about with a weather eye out to the fact that you need passion, skills and a market to make a living and:
- If you have passion and skills but not market you have a hobby
- If you have skills and a market but no passion you will be mediocre or burnout
- If you have a market and passion but no skills you will fail in an increasingly competitive world
The great thing about the modern world is that skills are easier and easier to gain, and markets can span the globe for an individual or a small organisation. So passion is the cornerstone.
Some readers have requested some further links and reading on these issues. Here are a a few from our scanning database:
Robots Can’t End Amazon’s Labor Woes Because They Don’t Have Hands