Time To Adjust, Find Balance, Or Bust

Photo by Chris Lawton

Growing up, I was told two things about the future of the labor force:


1. You will not be able to rely on Social Security come retirement.

2. You will have many jobs, most of which have not been created yet.


The first is still up in the air, but the second couldn’t have been closer to the truth.


The contemporary cultural push towards technical professions, like computer programming and engineering, is just one example of our attempt to take a pulse on the future of work. The shift towards high-tech professions was easy to foretell, and it has redefined the lives of billions of people over the last few decades, but many are predicting that it’s not the shift that will define the next generation of workers.


Tech is always renewing itself, but the challenges it poses to the workforce are far from novel. In 1962, over half a century ago, President John F. Kennedy said, “If men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.” We’ve had to get creative, but, so far, he’s been right. Since October of 2017, unemployment rates have remained at 4.1 percent — the lowest rate of unemployment in 17 years.


But the question remains: what work did JFK see those people doing after being pushed out by machines?


I was told that the jobs I would have would be new inventions of a new time, and they have been. Technology made that possible and is what most people in my generation have been pushed towards. I wonder, though, where younger generations are going to find their first job?


Investor, businessman, billionaire, and entrepreneurial guru Mark Cuban is a polarizing figure. He’s outspoken, flashy, and not exactly in the “chill zone.” That said, he has a pretty impressive track record when it comes to predicting the future. His business ventures reflect his futuristic projections, like investments in Hirebotics (which provides robots for hire) and Amazon.


When it comes to work, Cuban told a packed crowd at SXSW in 2017 that, while “you lose” if you’re not “getting up to speed on deep learning, neural networks” – and all those other futuristic technologies – he “would rather be a philosophy major” if he were in college today. “Knowing how to critically think and assess from a global perspective,” he said, “is going to be more valuable than what we see as exciting careers today.”


So it’s possible that a major in philosophy could be more than a one-way trip to a Ph.D. As we replace our technical workers with tech that can do their jobs for them, soft skills like creative thinking could become increasingly in-demand, serving as key assets in navigating our advancing technological world. The age of the history major may once again be upon us!


Let’s not stroll too far from fact, though. The rapid rise and integration of new technologies into the workplace is going to be awesome for some, mediocre for others, and annoying as hell for a few more. Things could get messy if we’re not paying attention. The precise way it impacts us will depend on the ways in which we adjust to earning a living in this new reality. And it will be a reality. With computers computing everything people want them to, we might all begin focusing more on the one thing we have left – ourselves.



Background, Context & Reference


More From This Issue