The official U.S. unemployment rate is down to 6.1%. This is the lowest it has been since September 2008, the month we all realized the U.S. economy was in a tailspin. The raw number of employed workers has also recovered from the start of the recession.
So why do we still feel in a funk about the employment recovery clearly underway? Perhaps it's because the recovery is taking so long. Or maybe it's due to the poisonous political relations turning into a national fratricide. It could also be the growing mainstream realization that capital has become densely concentrated among a relative few while the middle class feels it's power and influence waning.
I think all of these developments play significant and disturbing roles in our continued malaise. However there is another factor tugging at our collective insecurity. It's an insidious threat running just below the surface and not yet apparent to most, except for those who see their jobs and careers steadily dissolving. Call it automation, robotics, technology, or robosourcing, but whatever you call it the reality of machines replacing people in the workplace is as historic as craftsman and artisans being replaced by factory workers during the Industrial Revolution.
I'm not talking about just low-skilled jobs which don't require much education being erased. We all know that has been going on. The news is that computers are becoming better at replacing mid-level jobs and there is no end in sight of this trend.
Here are some examples of a possible near-term future: Why hire a paralegal when computers can research and collate case histories and precedents? Let's reduce family expenses by eliminating auto insurance, since our new car is autonomously operated. Who needs mid managers when employees are now empowered by sophisticated software to give them direction? Examples such as these (and there are plenty more) of automation reaching into and killing traditional careers will become more numerous. No wonder we feel unsettled. Uncertainty for our jobs is the new certainty.
Every great story involves individuals or groups trying to handle adversity with the goal of regaining equilibrium in their lives. Among the great stories of our age will be how working people adjust, manage, and flourish given the challenge of ubiquitous career disruption. This won't be easy. There will be a lot of anguish, questioning, indecision, and yes successes as we share in the development of a new economy characterized by new rules and choices.
How we as individuals adapt to a world in which technology handles all of the work tasks comprised of rote, logical, ordered, and sequential attributes will be centered around one fundamental question-What can people do that computers can't do? In answer to this question there appear to be at least two areas in which people are superior to machines. One, people can be creative, innovative, and novel. We have viewpoints and experience leading us to devise new and exciting ways of doing things. We can make decisions and present new perspectives as opposed to merely accomplishing tasks. Secondly, Hollywood movies about falling in love with operating systems aside, people can relate emotionally with other people. We can touch feelings, inspire and comfort others, understand, bless, and believe in other people. To date no automaton can do that.
Careers subsisting of creativity and human contact will survive and thrive. They are already the basis of many careers currently and jobs requiring facility in these areas will likely expand. We will have our machines, but above all we will still need and have each other. Maybe even the Creative Arts could actually experience a boom the likes of which we've not yet seen. Time will tell.
So yes, we feel that despite the hopeful employment numbers we're not very hopeful. Since we're not going to return to the past let's start looking forward to and planning for a future that will certainly be different, but necessarily bleak.
Not to be confused with a job placement service, the goal of career consultation is to assist individuals in identifying purpose and meaning in their work. To that end we will establish strategies for finding jobs that reflect those values. Six objectives are applicable to all clients no matter their backgrounds or aspirations. Visit: http://www.ryancareerservices.com.© 2014 Bill Ryan
The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.