The Last Two Jobs on Earth

March 18, 2013 / Philosophy

Everywhere you look software is automating work. If you think your job is safe, I bet someone is trying to automate what you do.

History tells us that when technology destroys a sector of jobs, a new sector appears and absorbs those jobs. It may even create more in the process. When Henry Ford’s affordable automobile jumped onto the scene, carriage makers went out of business. But as automobiles gained ground new opportunities were presented in manufacturing and transportation.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that will be the case this time. Software has actively automated and destroyed numerous jobs during the last decade. First, the most repetitive jobs became endangered. Mill and factory workers that spent the entire day doing one minute task repeatedly were replaced my machines that could do the same task without breaks. Now, software is eating away at service economy jobs.

Think about the accountant spending her day checking a sheet of numbers, or the paralegal reviewing documents for keywords specific to a case. Software can do all of these jobs quicker and cheaper than human counterparts.

We Need more Truck Drivers

There actually has been an explosion in job growth since the financial crisis. Unfortunately, almost all of it has been in lower income jobs. Just search for truck driver jobs, you will be greeted with transportation companies that can’t hire enough drivers. Becoming a truck driver or a janitor is a tough sell for those that spent a huge amount on a college education. Financially and emotionally it is a difficult thing to swallow. It is also tough, because those jobs are the next in line to be replaced by technology.

Almost every job is endangered by software. High-paid surgeons already use expensive robotics to assist them in surgery. How long will it be before robots replace them entirely? And while software engineers wield godlike powers today, I don’t think that will always be the case. Hey, maybe one day software will write software.

There are only two jobs that are irreplaceable, because at the core they are strictly about value creation.

The Starving Artist (and Entrepreneur)

Steve Blank will tell you that an entrepreneur is an artist. They see a vision of what could be. They stare at a blank canvas and try to paint their vision. Sometimes it doesn’t work, usually it turns out different than it was once imagined.

On the flip side, few artists and entrepreneurs will rise to the top. A couple will make $100 million, a few will make millions, and everyone else would make more money flipping burgers. And that is probably the reason your parents likely don’t want you to be an artist or an entrepreneur. Your mother wants you to grow up and get a steady accounting or marketing job with a reputable corporation like Coca-Cola.

Your parents love you, but they are wrong.

The world is a different place than the one they knew. The financial crisis in 2008 served as a catalyst. Companies had to become lean to survive. Many realized that they could use software to replace workers. The days of sitting behind a desk from 9-to-5 and doing a repetitive task are over. If your job can be automated, it will.

It is time to think about the jobs that cannot be automated — ones that require creativity. I doubt we’ll see software design websites, produce movies, or start businesses anytime soon.

I have placed my bets on design an entrepreneurship, because the last two jobs on earth will be artists and entrepreneurs.


Sources: TechCrunchYahoo NewsNPR