While the title wouldn’t necessarily suggest it, I am gearing this post toward college students or anybody looking ahead toward the future of those big life decisions. Not that I expect others to somehow know exactly what they might be doing when even I still struggle with the future, but since it’s the first week of classes for me and many other students, I figured this would be the appropriate time to share this.
Which by the title, you’re probably very confused as to how this relates to college. Bear with me on this one, I swear it’ll make sense in no time.
So my mom actually gave me this again (big shout-out and thank-you to that awesome lady) after going to a school in-service day. Typically a pretty dull day for those in the school system, but one speaker mentioned something that I think really pertains to not only students at the elementary age, but even more so at the high school and college age, the stage where it’s much less of the dreaming and imagining of cliche dream jobs, but actually buckling down and having to nitpick specific fields and majors that are supposed to be for life. Key words: SUPPOSED to be.
This speaker said that when thinking of a career option, especially in this continuously changing time of technology and innovation, we need to be thinking of career paths that a robot could not do. Because truly, once we fully adapt artificial intelligence to perform certain roles and positions, a realization that is easily within reach right now, we will be seeing a dramatic change in the job market.
I see it already happening. We have way more people who are interested in the idea of free-lancing and entrepreneurship. Previously I’ve written about my own aspirations of being my own boss and having that freedom to work from any location and do what I love. I don’t think people are as pressured or compelled anymore to jump straight into the hierarchical structure of certain industries and work your way up the corporate ladder. Obviously for some fields that’s a given, but that has never interested me.
And while we are stressing the importance of STEM careers, the hot spot of Silicon Valley and amazing opportunities at Google and Microsoft and Apple and beyond, are these positions actually sustainable? If you can have a computer come in and perform a certain task like coding flawlessly, quickly, and probably for free, wouldn’t you choose that over paying an actual person? It sounds very harsh, but it’s from a capitalistic mentality. Maybe there are a few people to manage the computers, but besides that, they could easily take on engineering, science and mathematics.
Even in education, or economics, or any studies not necessarily related to technology, we’ll soon be seeing more and more of it in the workplace, and if the pattern progresses, that will continue onto taking our places. Why would we need people actually teaching in a classroom if there are programs and devices that can do that for us? Why sit around studying the stock market or handling finances when a computer could also do that? Or serving us food at a restaurant? Posting on social media or advertising certain products? Reporting the news? Or pulling drivers over for speeding or drunk driving? Insert a job duty here, and it might not exist for humans to perform.
What feels like it’s straight from a science-fiction novel is quickly becoming our reality. But there is hope, and this is where I get back to that speaker at the school in-service. He said that we should be steering young people toward careers that robots could never do. Careers that require real people in the forefront. Careers that require emotion and true empathy to be done to their fullest potential.
What is left then, you might ask? Well, I think they are positions that society scoffs at. Careers in the arts, psychology, social work, ministry, humanitarianism, sustainability, entrepreneurship, non-profit work, etc. We discourage people from creative endeavors, from ambitious and seemingly far-out goals, suggesting instead to choose what is most popular right now, what is in the most demand, what makes the most money.
I can appreciate those reasons. They are, right now, realistic. But how about five, ten years from now? What will our world look like? We cannot predict the future. So we shouldn’t discount those who might not be interested in a traditional career path, sitting in an office 9-5 every weekday in front of a computer. Chances are, they might not be sitting there long term. We should be admiring those who are willing and ambitious enough to go against this traditional notion and forge their own path. What seems like a reckless and misunderstood decision might be the most sustainable moving forward.
Again, not here to discourage STEM majors, doctors, teachers, anybody else here who are very passionate about their work. That’s fantastic. But give credit to those who are looking beyond the options laid out on the table. Don’t be afraid to change your mind as you continue to live life and experience different things and learn about yourself. Don’t feel pressured from others how to work and live. The world is full of possibilities. Take full advantage of them, and don’t forget the essence of yourself in the process. Being human, feeling the world as you do, feeling others’ emotions, and expressing yourself are things that a computer program can never take away from you.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie