We're Living in an Anti-jobs Era
Driverless vehicles have been in the news recently.
Google has been testing out their driverless cars for a few years now. In August 2016, Singapore became the first country in the world to have a driverless taxi service. This will soon be joined by driverless buses. Uber has also launched their driverless car fleet in Pittsburgh, USA.
In airports, self-check-in counters and automated passport clearance are increasingly common. In fact I have not gone through a manual passport screening in Singapore's Changi Airport for the last 10 years!
At some newly renovated McDonald's outlets, you might have noticed and used self-ordering machines. When I visited McDonald's newly opened flagship store at Singapore's East Coast Park, I immediately noticed it only had 2 order counters manned by service staff! The job of taking orders is now done mainly by machines.
Online services are also changing the job landscape.
Online shopping is growing increasingly tremendously, resulting in many traditional big names in retail closing down.
Travel is another industry that has seen technology almost completely replace the job of travel agents and agencies.
Most banking transactions can now be done more quickly, easily and with lower fees through online banking than over-the-counter.
My father used to have to call his stock broker to make trades. These days you would be hard pressed to find anyone who still buys and sells shares over the phone through a remisier. Everyone does it online themselves at half the cost!
The revolution is now invading other industries like insurance, car sales and real estate. Last year, I had a friend who couldn't find a tenant through an agent. Her 11 year old daughter took the initiative to post a listing online herself and secured a tenant within a couple of days! No housing agent needed!
The Problem with Current Education Systems
A problem we and our children have is that our national or state-run education systems are teaching a curriculum that's meant to churn out employees for the industrial revolution economic model. One that is fast becoming obsolete.
That which brings success in school, such as rote-learning and the ability to score in exams based on a prescribed curriculum, are not only inadequate; they are counter to, and prevent the development of the courageous creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ability required in the brave new world that we are faced with.
Studying in order to get hired for a good job will become increasingly futile. Being an employee is no longer as viable. More and more jobs will be better done by machines with the rapid development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).
Not only will routine jobs like taking meal orders and executing transactions be redundant, even tasks that once require more advanced skills, higher-order thinking and other skills traditionally recognized through degrees and diplomas, will be soon be performed by A.I.
In the UK, Google's DeepMind, famous for its use of Artificial Intelligence, is working with Moorfields Eye Hospital to identify eye conditions that human eye care experts might miss.
Changes Needed in Education
We urgently need the willingness to change our philosophy of education and the courage and commitment to radically overhaul its systems - desired outcomes, curriculum and pedagogy.
We must change today in order to prepare ourselves and our children for a future that is now, not tomorrow.
We need to move away from an education system that overwhelmingly focuses on common core, standardized testing to one that encourages and rewards thinking out of the box and doing things differently. It's something we are crying out for, as hinted by the popularity of the Divergent series.
Jack Sim is a businessman who at 59 was granted a scholarship to Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think-tank. In an article for The Straits Times, he wrote:
"The university admits 80 students a year on scholarships and taught us about the highest-level technologies, including biotechnology, 3D printing, med-tech, sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence, machine learning, bio-mimicry, genetic engineering, cellular farming, nanobots, hyperspectra imaging, virtual reality, renewable energy, cyber security - the list goes on.
I was shocked to learn that every one of these technologies is going to replace human resources at a very rapid pace and they are anti-jobs technologies.
... these technological meteorites are going to strike the planet in an unprecedented blast of joblessness.
If employers can use robots, they would prefer not to employ humans. If machine learning can make things cheaper, faster, better and easier, who needs humans?"
Jack Sim posed an important question about how we should prepare ourselves and our children in light of the new industrial revolution we are facing. What is needed, he says, are sowing soft skills - seeds of genius that will enable each person to be a leader in any field:
He concludes by stating that:
"Rote-learning and memory tests are the domains of the robot. We should depart from a tendency to emphasise these in the education system and move towards unleashing the untapped gifts in every child.
Humans have spirituality, morals, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy and love. Our future competitiveness against robots lies in these human virtues. Our ability to care, love and imagine will allow us to continue to be masters of robots, and not their servants."
You can read the full article (7Cs to Survive an Anti-jobs Future) in The Straits Times here.