Fortune Magazine this week published its list of "Worst Jobs for 2015".
Top of the list: Newspaper Reporter.
And not far behind, Broadcaster and Photojournalist.
The old-school journalism business is not looking too promising.
Let me emphasize the 'old school' part of that.
We are witnessing a far greater transformation in society and the economy and the world of work than just a few newspapers going out of business. This is a change wrought not by mismanagement, nor the 'greed' of the '1%'. Rather, it is a change wrought by the new technologies of the Digital Revolution and the Internet. Whole industries are being wiped out, and we are only at the very beginning.
I am reading The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity In A Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andre McAfee. Despite its rather long title, it makes for a fascinating read. Looking ahead to where technologies are taking us, it is fair to predict that more and more jobs are going to be replaced by 'robots'. These are not necessarily the "Danger Will Robinson" variety, but rather increasingly more sophisticated iterations of Artificial Intelligence that will replace more and more conventional jobs and careers - and do they better, faster and far cheaper.
We may recoil at the notion of this, but how many of us have used an ATM machine without thinking twice about it. Convenient. no? Who would want to go back to the days of standing on line at the bank to cash a check to get, well, cash. Yet that is once how it was done. And woe be to the person who waited until too long on a Friday afternoon. Closing time at 3PM. You were stuck until Monday morning, unless you knew a friendly grocer.
Yet every time you use an ATM machine, you are effectively firing a bank teller. You are 'voting' that you think that the machine does a better job than the person.
Last week, fast food workers in NY marched in the streets to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage. It was covered by all the local media. Ironically, the next day, McDonald's announced that it was purchasing 7,000 touch screen cashiers. Coincidence? Probably. But clearly we will all soon be ordering our Big Macs (those of us who eat them that is) on touch screens, and glad for the speed and convenience. Fast food workers will join the ranks of former bank tellers or gas pump jockeys or elevator drivers.
Yet this is not, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee make clear, going to be limited to blue collar workers. Accountants, apparently, are soon to be replaced by computerized software that can do 90% of what they can do. Lawyer, to some extent. Car sales. Some doctors and medical procedures - robotic surgery. The list is pretty endless.
Technology driven work transformation is nothing new. Little more than 100 years ago, 95% of us worked in some form of agriculture. Today, it is 3%. Where did all the famers go? The Industrial Revolution upended cottage industries and replaced them with factories. Yet factories still provided jobs - The Digital Revolution seems to obviate jobs.
Looking at it coldly, it would seem that we are in the process of creating an almost permanent unemployed or under-employed class. Not everyone can mount a Hi Tech start up, nor write code. Nor will you need coders at all, once machines start to write their own code -which is coming.
So what careers CAN you look forward to?
Again, looking at the future coldly and objectively, there are going to be a LOT of people with a LOT of spare time on their hands.
And what will they do with all that spare time?
A lot of it is going to be spent in the realm of 'entertainment'. (Something most Medieval peasants could not even imagine). Games, movies TV shows, online video, social media.
Call it Bread and Circus. Or at least circus.
And where will the jobs be?
Well, someone is going to have to create all that 'entertainment'.
That, it seems to me, is going to become THE number one career path for the future.
And so far, at least, I don't think machines do a very good job of creating entertainment.
At least not yet.
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