The Wall Street Journal this month published a great article by Lawrence H. Summers that outlines why jobs (filled by actual human beings) will not be readily available in the coming decades. Who are we to argue with a former Treasury Secretary? For the most part he’s hitting the nail on the head. Technology is allowing mankind to far exceed what humans have been able to accomplish on their own at just about every level of production. This trend can be seen from the birth of the wheel right through the Industrial Revolution and the advent of computerization in our modern world.
For Mr. Summers “The economic challenge of the future will not be producing enough. It will be providing enough good jobs.” Point taken. While we generally produce enough food through agriculture or goods through manufacturing, the decline in these number of jobs is painfully obvious as you drive through the Midwest or Northeastern Rust Belt (as well as many places throughout the US). The revolution in the way we manufacture goods through robotics and new technologies (Summers points to 3-D printing) are very much still nascent and are likely to replace the majority of human jobs in manufacturing over the next couple of decades. So it is becoming painfully obvious that Americans are needing to educate themselves at a higher level than we ever have and with the sky-rocketing costs of obtaining this education we may find ourselves at an impasse.
Suddenly the pop-culture “machines running the world” idiom seems to have traded in its violence for a much more thorough takeover strategy. But we must not lose sight of the fact that humans are still in charge here and, be that as it may, humans still remain the most effective way to communicate with, well, other humans. At Simon’s we very much embrace the latest and greatest in technology – from our advanced database systems and computerized statistical analysis to automated internet enabled dialing – we absolutely find ourselves on the front lines of this technological insurgency. But at the end of the day, it’s not computers that have conversations with people that gets the job done at Simon’s – it’s the actual people who do so. Perhaps artificial intelligence will one day be able to fool the population en masse, but we’re still a ways away from Watson being able to affectively hold a verbal conversation with a human being.
Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Department of Education over half of American twelfth-graders only perform at the Basic level in writing in 2011. So it appears that we ourselves are closing this communication gap by literally going the wrong way with our own human skills. What may someday be one of the last jobs that machines can’t perform effectively is actual verbal and written communication with human beings. This is the number one prerequisite for our own employees and no matter how extreme our embracement of technology may be, Simon’s Agency, Inc. will always be in the market for employees with exceptional communication skills. Competition will be fierce for the best communicators in the years to come. As a nation we must challenge our children to be literate and affective communicators just as much as we challenge them in math and science.