I keep reading that millions of jobs are about to disappear due to new technologies like robots and artificial intelligence. Here’s a typical CNBC article highlighting the top 10 disappearing occupations. They are:
- Telephone operators
- Computer operators
- Pourers and casters, metal
- Foundry mold and core makers
- Electronic equipment installers and repairs, motor vehicles
- Watch repairers
- Word processors and typists
- Parking enforcement workers
- Respiratory therapy technicians
- Locomotive firers
However, it’s my position that for every job eliminated, more than one will be created in new product and technology areas as I wrote here last year. In that blog I mentioned job categories that will expand, such as Programmer, App Developer, Database Administrator and Cloud Computing Expert. But lately it’s occurred to me that there are many job areas where expansion is impossible to conceive of right now.
Predicting Tomorrow’s Jobs From Yesterday
Before the car was invented there was no demand for it. Jobs like taxi driver or chauffeur were not even a dream. And who would have thought that a telephone operator would be a job before the phone was invented in 1885? The answer is no one, but by 1920 there were 177,000 of them. Now they’re almost extinct. No one predicted the rise or fall of these jobs and I think we’re no better at it today than before.
The problem with these job warnings is that people can see the jobs about to be lost, but they can’t see the ones yet to be invented. Another example: The modern smartphone was born in 2007 with the arrival of the iPhone. Today, there are 12 million mobile app developers, making up for those lost operator jobs 67 times over. And notice that the invention/job creation time cycle, as compared to the original phone, shrunk from 35 years to ten.
This cycle will continue forever, which is one reason we have the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. Innovation creates new service and products and raises the overall standard of living, which in turn increases the demand for more stuff.
Prepare Employees For Tomorrow’s Jobs
The trick is to train young people to know how to do these jobs, which is a challenge for educational systems that are wedded to the past. But companies can pick up the slack by training their own people for new opportunities and communicating with them constantly about the shifting environment. There’s a bright future in terms of job creation and we are already seeing shortages in some of the new ones; mobile app developers being a case in point. I put this in the “good problem to have” category, especially considering those doom predictors out there.
So, to answer my original question, where will tomorrow’s jobs come from? They will come from things not yet invented, people’s minds, muses and creativity; just like they always have. We can’t know what those ideas will be, but history proves to us that they happen.