I have teenage step children and a four month old daughter. In the short 15 years between the birth of the teens and the infant, the world changed incredibly. The Internet arrived and software began eating the world at an even faster rate. This has me concerned about their employment prospects by the time both the first, but especially the last, get to the job market.
Heads in the sand
If anyone hasn’t noticed, the U.S. unemployment rate stands about 7%, well above the measurements of the early 2000’s before the global economic crisis hit. By most estimates, we’re a solid year into the recovery and yet the jobs of even four years ago aren’t coming back.
If we think this is a temporary thing, we have our collective heads in the sand. The economic downturn allowed employers to tighten their belts, rely more on technology, and focus on the most efficient parts of their businesses. The result? Higher productivity from doing more with less (not by choice then, but by choice now), automation of labor-intensive processes, and a reduction or shedding of the least competitive business divisions.
This is a trend that will only continue as clever business owners armed with the insight of surviving the past four years think differently about their workforce and the cost of hiring and maintaining employees.
Jon Evans wrote in After Your Job Is Gone today on TechCrunch that we’re moving toward a two-track world of have’s and have not’s, with technology deployers and technology workers being the new upper class.
I want to stress again that this is only the beginning — that as software eats the world, as Marc Andreessen put it, this two-track economy will grow ever more divergent around the planet. The relatively few people fortunate enough to work in technology (or have the capital to invest in it) will grow steadily wealthier, even as more and more jobs around the world are replaced by software and drones and robots.
It sounds like tech is the place to be.
It’s an economic shift
As Andreesen says in his famous piece, “My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.” He’s absolutely right. Andreesen explains the timing this way:
Six decades into the computer revolution, four decades since the invention of the microprocessor, and two decades into the rise of the modern Internet, all of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at global scale.
Again, he’s absolutely right. This is the driving reason behind Mary Meeker’s recent report that shows U.S. technology companies are dominating the world tech markets. This will accelerate in the next five years.
Do we need more evidence?
This is why I want my kids to have tech jobs simply from maternal, protective instincts. I don’t want them to be out of work and suffering the paradigms of a new world that I agree is coming, sooner or later, and probably not for the better for most people. We live in world where it’s expected that everyone works…but what happens when there simply isn’t a workplace for everyone because machines do most things?
If I were to show my children The Graduate today…and let’s not fret the moral question of doing that (they can see much worse)…I’d dub over that famous line from Mr. Maguire to Ben (the young Dustin Hoffman): “Just one word: Technology.”