Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Preparing for Automation

I came across this article today about a taxi driver who killed himself in front of City Hall in New York City to make a point.  Sadly I find his death to be relatively pointless.  First, if you are working 120 hours a week and not making enough to make ends meet, you need a different job.  Or to move somewhere else with a more reasonable cost of living.  Just because you feel you should be able to make a living doing something doesn't mean there is a market for your efforts.  Secondly, every industry undergoes change.  Sometimes it is slow change and sometimes it is massive and quick change but just because Uber comes on the scene and upends the traditional taxi business (thank goodness they did, the taxi industry in Las Vegas is rather awful), it doesn't mean that legislators should come to the rescue and try to turn back time to make someone happy.  Life doesn't work that way.

Interestingly enough, my own city of Las Vegas is set to be hit the hardest by automation with forecasters saying that 65% of the city's jobs could be automated within 20 years.  And do you see 65% of the workers here getting prepared for the time when their job will become automated and their presence will become superfluous?  Not that I have seen.  Which leads us to today's post...

How will you prepare for automation?  There have been numerous articles on the topic (here, here, and here) but no real consensus.  No one knows exactly what an automated future will look like but the general idea is that we will need many fewer people to accomplish our everyday tasks.  When I think back just 30 years ago, we were much more dependent on people doing their jobs in order for us to do our jobs.  Remember typing pools? Remember having to go to work in a building with offices and filing cabinets and janitors and maintenance supers?  Remember going to the store, picking out a gift, wrapping it, packaging it, going to the post office and mailing it?  Yep, all of these things are pretty much unnecessary these days as anyone can type up a document on their computer, many people work from home, and buying gifts can easily be done online now.

If I was a young person now, I would be looking at work as a life-long hustle.  I would be developing skills in multiple areas that would be hard to automate (plumber, electrician, nurse, surgeon) as well as have a good grasp of technology (yes we will need people to fix robots but eventually I think robots will be able to fix robots so there's that).  I would focus on self sufficiency and living minimally.  Basically you need a roof over your head, utilities, food, some clothing, and some tech products--all of which you can figure out how to do for yourself for the most part.

Finally, you need to keep an eye on what is happening and look for opportunities.  I mean, it would be nice to be the founder of Apple (not Wozniak but Jobs in this scenario) or the owner of the backbone of a major cellular network, but there are plenty of people making a good living off of producing and selling iPhone cases.  You don't need to have a deep knowledge of technology and deep pockets to survive, you need to see opportunity and grab onto it and ride it until you see the next wave which you will then use to move on to better, more lucrative things.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on. It seems most people can't think past the weekend and just show up at work to do their job, with no thought as to how it fits into the big picture.

    As you regularly recommend, situational awareness is key.