“Technology is, of course, a double edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.” – Jason Silva.
Self-driving cars and trucks. Wi-Fi enabled appliances. Virtual Reality (VR) environments. Artificially intelligent super computers aiding medical breakthroughs. Fully automated manufacturing plants. Drones. Alexa. Siri.
This is what our technologically advanced world looks like today, with no signs of slowing down. At this rate, one can expect technology to play an even more dominant part in our lives within the next 10 years.
Undoubtedly, technology has made our lives much easier. We can order restaurant food from our smartphones right to our door. We can view and chat with a visitor standing outside of our front door through a video enabled doorbell, even though we are miles away. We can turn our house lights on and off through voice command. We can suspend reality for a couple of hours as we immerse ourselves into a fictitious world thanks to VR headsets and elaborate VR games. Doctors can more accurately diagnose and make informed decisions on patient ailments thanks to the power of artificial intelligence.
However, even as daily tasks become more efficient and automated with the rapid technology explosion within society, there is a perceived looming threat to the modern work force as traditional and manual skill sets become obsolete.
This employment threat may not be an urgent issue today, as existing technologies require more time and investment to mature and replace traditionally manual or equipment-aided work. However, at some point in the near future we will experience significant disruption across the employment landscape, as the quality and quantity of non-technological jobs evolve and become increasingly scarce.
As parents, my wife and I focus on seeking the right opportunities to provide our children with competitive advantages when they become adults. We do not just want them to survive; we want them to thrive in a world that may become overly reliant upon technology.
Based on this perspective, I believe that in order to prepare our children and ourselves for a technologically reliant future, we should:
- Consider a career in an essential field such as medicine, education, computer science, and the legal profession.
- Learn a high demand skill or trade.
- Embrace entrepreneurship.
Consider a career in an essential field such as medicine, education, computer science, and the legal profession. Have you ever watched futuristic movies where the main character is injured, and hops into an artificially intelligent medicine pod that proceeds to scan, diagnose issues, and successfully execute complicated surgery (Prometheus comes to mind)? Well, that future will not be a reality anytime soon. High demand levels for doctors, nurses, research scientists, and other key roles within the medicine field will continue unabated well into the future.
Over the years, technology has positively influenced the quality of care and the effectiveness of patient drugs used to treat medical conditions. However, we still have a long way to go toward actually finding sickness cures (most medicines allow us to simply manage and not eradicate diseases).
Even if artificial intelligence matured to the point where a machine is capable of treating patients without human intervention, the sophistication needed for machines to manage patient interactions on an emotional level represents a significant challenge.
The legal profession requires lawyers to research, prepare, and present arguments on their client’s behalf in a court of law. While technology can enhance the law research efforts, the preparation and representation in court depends heavily on human ability.
The education profession is another area that has embraced technology to provide new learning avenues to the masses (e Learning, online institutions, and virtual classrooms). However, instructors are still necessary to engage a classroom and provide subject matter perspectives that are not readily found in a textbook or research paper.
Of course, advanced technology today would not be possible without the skill and accomplishments of computer science experts who continue to develop and turn technical concepts to reality. These technical experts will continue to play a critical role in pushing the artificial intelligence barrier even further into the future. Every technological vision will require some form of computer science capabilities to transform a prototype to a viable functioning product that society will embrace and adopt.
While these professions will endure well into the future, they may only be of interest to a small cross section of society. Additionally, the significant investment in time, education, and finances may be a challenging barrier to overcome. However, the point here is to find the right career path that is immune or can exist alongside rapid technological advances.
Learn a high demand skill or trade. I think it is safe to say that there will always be a need for plumbers, electricians, roofers, locksmiths, hair stylists, barbers, cooks and home repair people. Anyone with this type of skill set will always have a pathway to earning income should his or her main job suddenly vanish due to technology.
Given the relatively easy process to register a business entity and launch a website today, an experienced hair dresser or plumber can advertise and secure private jobs on weekends or during off working hours. If technology related unemployment occurs, these skilled folks can turn their part time ventures into full time engagements until they secure new career related positions (or switch careers altogether).
Some of the above-mentioned examples require licenses and apprenticeship, however there are other skills such as landscaping, DJing, wedding planning, and web development that do not require formal training.
The main take away here is that learning and developing a reliable skill will provide safeguards against the impacts of any potential future employment disruptions. Relying solely on a chosen career path without other means of generating income may be a risky proposition as we prepare for a rapidly changing future.
Embrace entrepreneurship. Sometimes the answer to the question “what should I do with my life?” is to START A BUSINESS. Starting a business or businesses may seem daunting and unachievable at first glance, due to all of the personal and financial investments needed to establish a unique brand and attract customers. However, if you really believe in an idea and in yourself, then becoming an entrepreneur is a very achievable endeavor.
There is no written rule that states you MUST get a job working for an established company. Everyone has the power and ability to build a successful company, with the ability to adapt to changing technological landscapes in the future. There many examples of successful business people who made a decision and took the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.
Make no mistake, embracing entrepreneurship is very risky and can potentially result in failure without the right decision, planning and execution process. However, risk is necessary to achieve the reward of being a successful entrepreneur. Business owners who are open minded about embracing technology, and are willing to adapt as customer needs change will continue to experience success well into a technologically advanced future.
So there you have it – my three suggestions to prepare for an employment related technologically disruptive future. Do you have any additional ideas that you would like to add to this list? Please feel free to share by commenting below!