By Matthew Crissman, Senior Technical Recruiter
You are replaceable. Let that sink in for a minute: The job that you do today can and will be replaced by someone or something cheaper and/or more efficient. It may take months or even years to find, train or develop your replacement, but it can be done. This applies at every level—from an hourly employee to a CEO of a Fortune 1000 company. There are 7 Billion people in the world and over 2 billion computers. We are all at risk of becoming obsolete, and technology makes that transition even more rapid. Take for instance the fact that Facebook is working to connect the most isolated parts of the world to the internet through solar powered drones.
Don’t mistake me for being cynical or pessimistic. I don’t think that robots are going to replace us all or that our work is without value.
I do believe—or rather I know—that many of the things we do today will be entirely automated or unnecessary in the future. How do I know this? Because it has already happened and continues to happen at an unbelievable pace: switchboard operators, bowling alley pinsetters, ice cutters—none of these exist in any significant manner anymore. Many other jobs have been highly condensed or simplified due to tech: automated customer service systems have greatly reduced the number of human operators, and self-checkouts have driven down cashier numbers.
You may think, “Those are all lower-skill jobs. What I do is far too hard for any computer to do, and too important to outsource to less-experienced workers.”
That may be true for now. But it won’t always be true. Technology is improving every day and extremely complicated tasks are becoming automatable.
So what must we do to ensure we always have a means of earning a living?
- Continuously improve
- Learn new skills as often as you can
- Pursue new certifications
- Experiment with new technologies
- Find ways to better yourself
Machines and computers are phenomenal—they can operate 24/7 and never get tired or hungry. Their kids don’t get sick, requiring them to stay home. Computers can solve vector calculus problems faster than you can say “Gottfried Leibniz,” yet there are some tasks still too complicated for even the most advanced supercomputers.
I say all of this to illustrate a point: there is something unique about human capability. At its essence, technology is nothing more than a tool. A very useful, complicated, ever-advancing tool, but a tool nonetheless. It is therefore our role to master these tools, create new tools, and reshape this world into a better world for all.
Technology solves problems, but it also creates new ones. Before computers we didn’t need tech support or application developers. Before industrialization we didn’t need mechanical engineers (at least to the degree we do now) and so many of the jobs of the future don’t even exist right now! According to World Economic Forum, they estimate that 65% of children now in primary school will end up working jobs that don’t yet exist!
In a world that’s trending toward total automation, what is left for us humans to do?
Create. I don’t believe that any computer will ever truly create anything. A machine can be programmed to output beautiful images, to create articles, to conglomerate data and draw statistical probabilities. However, I think it is forever out of reach for machines to comprehend every facet of human culture to a level that they can create something out of nothing.
Figure out what makes you special. Refine it, hone it, polish it. It may take a lifetime of trial and error, but there is something that you and only you can create.
Network. I’m not talking about LANs, WANs, VPNS, etc. I’m talking about the human-to-human experience.
I went to Disney World a few months back. While on a bus back to the hotel, I saw an exhausted mother trying to corral her two small children into a seat. They were not at all interested in sitting still, but eventually she reached into her tote bag and pulled out a couple of plush toys. Finally, they sat down and played, when I noticed her tote bag said Indianapolis Zoo. We began talking, and I learned they lived just a few houses away from my childhood home. Not only that, but her husband is a .Net Developer who was looking for a new role. Imagine—Hundreds of miles away from home and through a random coincidence, I was connected with a new business contact and eventual friend!
I know it can be difficult but have a conversation with everyone you can. It enhances our whole human experience, and you never know who you’ll meet.
Cooperate. Language is widely considered one of the most important natural developments in human history. The ability to quickly and precisely convey meaning to others has allowed us to cooperate on a scale no other species ever has. We’re able to work with others and visualize not only where we are and where we have been, but where we want to be and how we can get there.
In order to future-proof your skill set, you must learn to cooperate and communicate with everyone you choose to interact with. I mentioned earlier that technology is just a tool. Especially recently, its focus has been to help us communicate better. Emails, SMS, Calls, FaceTime—they all facilitate near-instant global communication. Data Analytics tools help us see the underlying trends and behaviors of humans and communicate more reasoned decisions.
There’s a lot of criticism of our modern culture as lacking effective communication, lacking a detailed attention span, encouraging shallowness, etc. Maybe there is something to this, but regardless of the method of our communication, the quality of cooperation is improving constantly and records are being broken every day in every field.
We live in a marvelous time and the world today will not be the same as the world ten years from now. Look at this from an IT recruiter’s standpoint, and figure out what you’re best at creating and continue to learn, network with everyone you meet and find the team that will help you discover it, create it and improve it.
What do you think? Is there something that only humans can do? What will be the most important skills of the future? Get in touch with us and let’s chat.