What do you want to be when you grow up?

The future isn't what it used to be...

Nearly 60% of Australian students (70% in VET) are currently studying or training for occupations where at least two thirds of jobs will be automated.                               
Source: Foundation for Young Australians report

There has been an increase, slow and steady, in the number of press reports around the automation of everyday jobs. Of course, thanks to the Optimism Bias, these reports are vaguely noted as interesting, marginally threatening, but irrelevant to use and our loved ones.

This, I believe, is a grave mistake. We are part of the statistics, whether we like it or not.

Note the following articles:
Example 1: "ANZ brings in robot workers to do boring jobs"
Example 2: " According to a report by Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) from April this year, 44 per cent (or 5.1 million current Australian jobs) are at high risk of being affected by computerisation and technology over the next 20 years."

These are just two of the dozens that showed up on page 1 of the google results returned on my search.

No doubt, these reports aren't gospel, and they've probably got methodological weaknesses that would expose them to some criticism. However, they are all smoking guns.

But regardless of whether the projected timeframes are correct, there is a deeper issue that I think we are all missing, but which is alluded to in the FYA report quoted at the top of this post.

When you ask your children what they want to be when they grow up, how are they going to know, when even you cannot answer what jobs are likely to be around in 10 years?

So how do children today plan a career or path when we don't know whether it will exist in the future? Especially now that we have taught computers how to learn.

Yes, let me repeat that - computers can now teach themselves. Which means they are self-improving. Or will be, very soon. Therefore soon they won't need humans to program their next version - they can upgrade themselves. And do it much faster than we can, with infinitely more computing power that our poor homo sapien brains can.

See this TED talk for a really compelling and exciting video of the possibilities and threats of this new step in human evolution.

Let me be clear - I don't believe this is doomsday. I just think that computers are going to disrupt much more than industries. They are going to disrupt the prospects of future generations.

It is predicted that "a typical young Australian starting part-time work today would be employed in 17 different jobs spanning five careers over their lifetime."                                                   [source]

So, put yourselves in the shoes of a 10 year old and tell me - what do you want to be when you grow up?

In my next post I hope to talk about the ultimate disruption that the software technology revolution may bring....


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