College graduations are this weekend in my home state. Some days it’s hard to believe that it’s been thirteen years since I finished college. Other days it seems like it was somebody else’s life. I am definitely not the same person I was then. Back then I believed I could still work in spite my mental illness if I found the right situation. Over the next several years I worked a variety of jobs; retail clerk, sales man, teacher’s aide, factory worker, loading dock worker, cook, dish washer, janitor, and now blogger. Besides the teacher’s aide job, none of these jobs had anything to do with what I studied in college.
In my younger years, I was kind of resentful that I didn’t find a good paying job in the field I studied. For awhile I believed that college was a waste because of this. I really don’t feel that way anymore. After studying science and tech advances for the last few years, I know now that it’s impossible to spend four to five years in college and expect to have a career in that field for the next forty years. The science and technology is advancing too fast anymore. Entire new industries are being creating and being destroyed every year anymore. It’s foolish to tell an eighteen year old kid fresh out of high school that what they major in has to last them until age sixty five. Most eighteen year olds don’t know what’s even available, let alone where their true strengths lie. When I started college I never saw myself becoming a writer and blogger. There were very few blogs in 1999 when I started college. There weren’t even social media sites, good search engines, youtube, netflix, etc back then. And that was just eighteen years ago, not that long ago. Who knows what will change in the next eighteen years. I might not even need to use a keyboard to write a blog by 2035.
As far as telling an eighteen year old kid that they have to stay in one career field for their lives, that’s asinine. These kids graduating high school this spring won’t hit even our current retirement age until the mid 2060s. We can’t realistically train these kids for lifelong careers when we don’t know what will be available by then. Maybe some of the kids graduating this year will be working in vertical farming, yet in 2017 this tech is still in development phases. Maybe some of these kids will be robotics mechanics. Perhaps some will become technological nomads and just go wherever the work takes them. Have lap top, will travel much like the hired guns of the Old West. Maybe some of the kids graduating this spring will work on building moon and Martian colonies. Maybe some of these kids will be among the first to have their children genetically modified. I don’t know. But I doubt few of them, if any, will be able to make careers as truck drivers, fast food workers, retail clerks, telemarketing, book keeping or most manufacturing. These jobs will be among the first to be automated.
And ironically, no one else knows exactly what the future of work holds for these kids leaving high school either. Tech gurus like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, etc. can have good ideas but we realistically can’t foresee what will and what won’t happen in the next twenty, thirty, or forty years. And politicians can say they want to revive blue collar manufacturing jobs, but that’s not going to happen in spite their best efforts. We can’t go back to the past and trying to do so will only make the transitions to a higher tech world civilization even harder and delay the inevitable. For all I know, by 2065 the basics of life could be cheap enough that working may optional for some people. Maybe the only real jobs humans can do will be in science research and space exploration. Of course I could be completely wrong and World War III knocks humanity back to the Stone Age. What I do know is that as much change as I have seen since graduating high school in 1999, even that change is going to be dwarfed by what’s coming in the next couple generations.