Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, technology has been steadily displacing certain types of workers. The more physical and task oriented jobs have been going the way of John Henry. The good news during past centuries was that even though some jobs were being eliminated, technology was actually creating more jobs than it rendered extinct. Telephone operators for example, didn’t exist before the telephone. Today, it’s hard to tell if technology is creating new jobs or just lessening the need for humans altogether. Hopefully, that trend of technology creating more jobs will continue.
If you are looking to inoculate your career against the technological invasion, you may want to be more creative. The skills that creative people possess are more difficult to automate. They include: empathy, flexibility, storytelling, synthesizing ability and the ability to conceptualize abstract problems. Additionally, jobs in general are certain to be more cognitive in the future. And the jobs focused on physical tasks, like digging ditches, will be in very limited supply.
A couple of innovations showing in the news this week demonstrate all too well where the future of jobs isn’t. Walmart just began promoting new designs for its fleet of 18-wheelers that Jennifer Booton from Fox Business aptly called a “Fleet of Transformers.” Her article, Walmart’s Future Fleet of Transformers, is both exciting and a little scary. They are sleek and futuristic, using the latest in all technologies. But the real innovation seems to be coming in the way in which they travel. Walmart wants to enable “platooning” with these vehicles. That means they ride bumper to bumper down the highway. To do this, they need to be automated and to communicate with one another. You don’t have to think long to imagine that Walmart is looking to get rid of drivers.
Platooning Transformers is on the large end of the spectrum, but what about small things? Even honey bees might be out of a job soon. With the declining populating of pollinators due to mysterious causes, scientists have been working on micro-drones as substitutes. Dina Spector’s article, Tiny Flying Robots are Being Built to Pollinate Crops Instead of Real Bees, demonstrates that automation is coming to all domains, even the tiny ones. Micro-drones have huge implications because now even the tiniest of tasks can be automated.