Which is very true. It is not about any of those things. However what it is about is your future.
And your job. Maybe less so if you are a landlord (as people will always need places to live), but certainly if you are an adviser, an agent, a lawyer or some other type of middle class professional.
Changes are a-comin’
We live in a time of change. The internet and IT have already changed our work and our lives in many ways that us old ‘uns could not have imagined in our long off youth when we had no mobile phones or personal computers and the internet did not exist.
But that is NOTHING to the changes that are on their way. You Millennials out there – you may think it weird that my generation grew up without mobile phones and Facebook, but your grandchildren, in 50 years time, will be wondering how on earth YOU managed without XY and Z.
X, Y and Z being things which are as unimaginable now as twitter and facebook were in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
So taking it as read that stupendous change is coming, the subject matter of this book is how IT and the Machines will be changing the world of work over the next 20 years.
The new world of work
Massive changes are coming in all areas of work and very few jobs will be unaffected. However, it looks as if the main changes will be in the professions and in traditional middle-class jobs.
The professions have developed over the past 200 years or so (sometimes longer) as a way to provide help and guidance to the public in specific areas essential to our lives but which require long study to become proficient in – such as law, medicine, accountancy, architecture, and the like.
So certain people, mostly drawn from the middle classes, will spend time early in their lives acquiring this knowledge and experience and then spend the rest of their lives giving this knowledge and these skills back to society via the various professions.
However, there are often big problems with the delivery of these services.
The problems with the professions
The main problem is that although there is a greater and greater need for professional services to help us with our lives in an increasingly complex world, the services delivered by the professions are becoming more and more out of reach to the majority of the population.
- They are too expensive (save for medical help delivered via the NHS – which we all pay for via our taxes)
- The methods of delivery are largely old-fashioned and inefficient, and
- Many of the practitioners are resistant to change.
For example, many professionals insist on charging by the hour for a ‘one to one’ service – when often a service as good or better could be provided using new technology solutions.
I touched on this in my final two posts in my Law and Justice series (which were partly inspired by this book).
The changes that are coming
You need to read the book to find out, but for example:
- The provision of documentation has already changed and is mostly much simpler and easier.
- Much professional information, previously only available via expensive advice services, is now found for free on the internet.
- Many professional repetitive tasks which previously formed a large part of a professional’s job, are becoming automated in one way or another
Also, some services will be provided in different ways, such as via algorithms or machinery which will only function if health and safety standards are met. Making ‘one to one’ guidance or instruction on these things redundant.
However, this does not necessarily mean that there will be fewer jobs overall. There will inevitably be new jobs for different things (which may become necessary under the new technology) and the Susskinds speculate in this book what these new jobs could be.
A point of view
Many people will look on all this as a disaster. However, others will look on it as a challenge and an opportunity. After all, there have always been changes and jobs becoming redundant over time – look what happened to wheelwrights, blacksmiths, scribes, and indeed farm labourers (most of the population were farm labourers 400 years ago).
It looks as if there will be very big changes over the next 20 years.
If you are due to retire in 5 to ten years time, you may (may) be able to reach retirement before the changes hit your job. In which case you may (may) be able to ignore them – although this is a dangerous thing to do and may mean that your younger colleagues will be disadvantaged in the new world to come.
However, if you are young or intend to remain in work for the next two decades you need to know what is coming.
So I would highly recommend this book as a guide to the future.
It’s up to you
Although as the authors make clear – the future is not set in stone. The future is what we make it.
And I would add that if you don’t like what you see about the use of modern technology – you should do your own thing and use the technology in the way that YOU want!
Technology is not good or bad of itself. It just is. So don’t blame the technology for creating a world which you do not like. WE (ie the humans, not the machines) are the ones who decide how it is used.
So what we do with it and what we make of it is up to us. Or rather – you.
You can get the book on Amazon here.