A New Way of Thinking

A new way of thinking about the uncertain future includes many aspects – from the way we live our lives, through how much we spend, to how much debt we carry, and even what education we, or our chidren, should get.

Let’s start in this blog post with the issue of education. It used to be that, getting a post-secondary degree – any degree – meant having significantly better chances for a stable, well-payed job. This notion came, at least in part, from the previous industrial revolutions, which replaced primarily low-skilled factory workers with machines, whereas white collar jobs were not affected as much by automation. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

According to a much discussed research by Oxford University, about 47% of jobs in developed countries, and up to 85% of jobs in developing countries, are threatened by automaion and robotization. The following are some of the jobs most likely to be affected by robotization during the next 10 to 20 years:

  1. Loan officers

  2. Receptionsts

  3. Paralegals and legal assistants

  4. Retail salespersons

  5. Taxi drivers

  6. Security guards

  7. Cooks, fast food

  8. Bartenders

  9. Personal financial advisers

  10. Reporters and correspondents

  11. Musicians and singers

  12. Lawyers

And the list goes on, including a total of 700 jobs and their risk of being replaced by a robot.

Did you notice all the jobs that require post-secondary, even university, education? Jobs like paralegals, loan officers and personal financial advisers, reporters and even lawyers? Most of those used to be good, well-payed jobs that people would work for their entire lives, providing for their families. These were also jobs that offered good working conditions, benefits and a pension. Well, not any more. And this is what’s different today, compared to the last industrial revolution.

Paralegals and legal advisers are already being replaced by websites such as “Rocket Lawyer” that offer free legal services in numerous countries. The job of lawyers themselves is getting replaced by computer programs capable of “reading” through enormous amounts of legal documents, in a fraction of the time this would take even a team of legal assistants or lawyers, and for a fraction of the cost. This means less work for lawyers, and more competition for the contracs available.

The job of reporters is also being done by computer software, even today (AP’s ‘robot journalists’ are writing their own stories now). And computer programs do not need sick days, vacations, benefits or a pension. This is the second wave to hit journalists and correspondents – the first one being the ongoing digitalization of newspapers and, for many, – their going out of print.

These changes are happening right before our eyes – it’s enough to go to a grocery store and see all the electronic self-serve cashier machines that were nowhere to be seen only a decade ago, replacing cashier jobs; or to visit a fast food restaurant, and take a look at all the electronic self-order machines. Yet, for some reason, most people still continue to think about life and education in the exact same way they did during the 1970s and 1980s! They still encourage their children to get a degree – any degree, at any cost, – believeing that this is the only way to get a good, well-payed job. And, as their children so often realize upon graduation, this is no loger the case.

So, before you decide on whether college and university education is good for you, or for your children, please consider first the amount of debt you will incur in the process, the chances of getting a job after graduation, and what salary that job will offer. Will you be able to live with what you have left after paying for your student debts? How long will it take you to pay off your debt – if you have a stable job, which, unfortunately, is rarely the case these days, when precarious working conditions are more often the norm. And think if it is really worth it to put so much time, efforts and money into something that might not bring you a better job or better working conditions than, say, a skilled worker.

Think twice about each and every decision you make – like, for example, is it worth it, in the long term, to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for music lessons for your children, when one philharmonic orchestra, after another, after another are either imposing pay cuts on their musicians, or simply firing them and closing. And even a job at a philharmonic orchestra is not easy to get! If, however, you want to do this because you believe that music skills and literacy are important, that’s something else.

It is possible to have a relatively good quality of life even in our uncertain times, but the way to achieve that today, more often than not, is not the same as it was only 20-30 years ago. Times are changing, fast, and we need to keep up with them and to adapt to the changes around us in order to survive, or risk jobless indebtedness.

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