The transition to an automated world will be painful

I think a lot about the future of work. I expect to be writing and publishing until my near-final breath. I a skill I can keep doing long after traditional retirement.

What I wonder about is how my three children will navigate the world of work. Spanning ages 19 to 2, the three of them will have very different work experiences than I and even each other. What scares me though is that we’re not planning how to change education to help them prepare for work.

Criticisms of how irrelevant school is to the “real world” are as old as the first schools and teenagers. This isn’t about needing to learn algebra (far more important now than ever) or reading Shakespeare; this post is about the rest of us. We who have to adapt to an automated work world.

James Manyika of McKinsey published a workplace automation post on LinkedIn that separates reality from hype. No, robots and AIs won’t be replacing us in the near term. Yes, there are occupations that are more at risk than others. The final paragraph touched on the point I was waiting for:

This will likely include rethinking education and training, income support and safety nets, as well as transition support for those dislocated. Above all, a focus on the skills needed to thrive in this new era will be paramount, so that automation does indeed remain an ally.

Likely include rethinking education and training? Let’s wake up. There is no “likely” about this, we must start rethinking both education and training now. We need short and long term plans to get kids ready to be in the workforce and help people who are automated out find something fulfilling to do.

We don’t know what new jobs are going to be created in the future — mobile app developer has been a career for the last 10 years — planning is tricky. There are going to be jobs keeping robots running. There are going to be jobs tracking automated fleets of vehicles and managing them. There will an absolute need for teachers. Lots and lots of teachers.

Between now and the AI apocalypse, there will be disorder. People are uneasy now, consider what it will be like when 5, 10, 15% of jobs are gone. Consider what those people will need to survive. Let’s hope for all our sake’s that a two new jobs are created for each one lost, and those jobs don’t need years of training.

For my part, I’m making sure my kids learn how to learn and adapt their skills. They are comfortable with technology, how it works, and how it doesn’t. For my part I’m ready to get back into the classroom to help people learn skills like writing and marketing.

What’s your part?



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