This editorial was originally published on June 15, 2013. It is being re-run for the New Year holiday.
I was reading a piece recently about the problems many new college graduates will face as they enter the workforce. There are less and less jobs available in many industries and a large reason for this is the advances in technology that have eliminated many jobs. Technology has made people more efficient, allowing companies to hire less staff. Or at least management thinks less staff is needed. New applications and devices have allowed self service operations for many types of tasks that might have required an employee in the past. This is a trend that is likely to continue.
Do we just need less people working in the world? I don't think so. For every job we eliminate, there are new opportunities that come about. Unfortunately the new openings often require different skills from the position eliminated, which means that often the person who lost the job can't take advantage of the new opening without some re-tooling of their skills.
Those of us in technology find ourselves moving from place to place, learning new skills and technologies easily because that's the nature of the business. However in many other fields, it's not as easy for individuals to gain new skills. This Friday I wanted to ask those in technology if they think about the impact their work has on others.
Do you feel guilty about the jobs that technology eliminates?
I used to feel that it was up to everyone to ensure they could find a new job if they lost their current one. It seemed to be a capitalist market idea that change will occur, new industries will arise as old ones die, and everyone ought to be prepared to transition to a new career. However technology seems to hasten the process, and so many people do not seem to be able to make the change quickly to a new field or a new industry.
Or perhaps they are too slow to embrace the idea of change.
I feel that technology has made the world better overall, and the tremendous amount of data that we capture, analyze, and use to make decisions allows the world to function better. We have room for improvement, and we certainly have security and privacy concerns, but we do need to find solutions to those problems and prepare for change in the future. We also need to make sure the next generation also understands that they will need to be more flexible and better trained than in the past.