Published on Dec 21, 2019
There’s a lot of fear in the air around automation with robotics, software, and AI. People are worried they’ll lose their jobs, and they’re probably right. In the words of Bob Dylan, the times are a-changin’.
Well, times are always changing.
That’s the way of society. It’s the way of life. Every organism that’s existed on Earth over the last billion years has had to fight to survive, often being forced to adapt to changing environments. It’s what enabled bacteria to become invertebrates and eventual homo sapiens.
Change is always present, and change presents an opportunity. Species and individuals who scraped by in the past may thrive in the new environment.
Automation is an opportunity, not a death sentence.
Will jobs that exist today no longer exist in 10, 20, 50 years? Of course. But I have no doubt that new jobs will rise up to take their place.
Since the dawn of humans, people have devised ways to increase productivity, and not once have we decided, well that’s good enough. It’s instinct to keep going. To continue fighting. To adapt. We have little choice, it’s encoded in the DNA of every cell in our bodies.
When humans invented agriculture, it destroyed hunting and gathering “jobs.” Did people plant their seeds and sit on their butts? No, they had more kids and the modern economy blossomed because we finally had spare time to dedicate towards interests outside of feeding ourselves.
When the gun was invented, there were sword makers all over the world who went out of business. But making guns required more technology, knowledge, and labor than swords (when you take into account collecting all the raw materials needed). The sword makers struggled, but it was a net gain for the economy.
When the car was invented, no doubt horse carriage makers felt the pain.
When the internet was invented, telecom struggled.
Amazon has reshaped the merchant landscape.
Now crypto is upending numerous institutions.
And with each increase in productivity, standard of living has also increased.
Paradigm shifts take place all the time, and people have always found more complex, more creative ways to spend their time when our productivity increases.
There are people who will lose their jobs to automation. But if they’re able to adapt, there will be better jobs that sprout up in their place.
As automation relives humans of well-defined, repetitive labor, it will free us to pursue creative endeavors.
We’ve already seen this shift taking place over the last few hundred years. Even famous artists 500 years ago struggled to get by. Now, there are a good number of fairly well-off artists—writers of TV/Movies, authors of books, musicians, etc. There are also mainstream jobs that rely on a person’s creativity to create value—web designers, graphic designers, interior designers, the list goes on.
Over the course of human history, strong bodies and personalities have tended to do well. In the current age, strength is becoming less and less important while creativity is becoming more and more important.
Creativity is what will define your economic potential going forward. It’s different for sure. And some people who flourished in the old paradigm will struggle in the new one. But the flipside is also true.
Will the change be tough? Yes. And tougher for some people than others.
Over the course of the next hundred years, though, I think automation will be a huge net benefit for humanity.
As we’ve dedicated more time and resources to creativity over the course of history, a positive feedback loop has formed, whereby our creativity finds solutions to problems, which allow us to focus even more energy on creative efforts.
You can resist and struggle, but the change will still come. It’s your choice to adapt and flourish or not.