It seems not a day goes by that we don't hear something about automation and new technologies that are going to replace human jobs. Perhaps it's a large company like Google, Apple or Tesla working on a self-driving car; a company working on an implantable chip put into the human body to detect a serious disease years before it is even recognizable by modern medicine standards; or a no name guy who rises to fame with a new app that simplifies a difficult and tedious task. The reality is that automation is not some wild fantasy anymore that's decades down the road. It's already here and is going to dramatically change life as we know it.
With all the good that's going to come with automation, we are suddenly faced with a new problem: the elimination of many middle class jobs. Dr. Michael A. Osborne from Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science and Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey of the Oxford Martin School, estimate that 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. are "at risk" of being automated in the next 20 years. They say jobs that have already been severely impacted by computers (manufacturing, administrative support, retail, and transportation) will continue to diminish. Furthermore, they believe routine-based jobs (telemarketing, sewing) and work that can be solved by smart algorithms (tax preparation, data entry keyers and insurance underwriters) are most likely to be eliminated.
If you think income disparity is a problem in the United States now, watch what happens when many middle class jobs start disappearing. Is some form of socialism or equal sharing going to solve it? No chance. What about raising the tax rate to 90 percent or more? That might work if you were talking about subsidizing the poor, but it will never be enough to support America's middle and upper class, people with solid paying jobs who make up roughly 70% of the population.
People are mixed over automation. Some are excited and on the edge of their seats waiting for the next big breakthrough. Others, however, aren't as enthralled. The fact of the matter is, no matter what you think about it, you're not going to have a choice. Rather than whine, complain or trying to fight it, it's time to embrace it because it's inevitable, and might very well replace your job.
What is the solution? As hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." If your job is one of those that might very well be replaced, it's crucial that you find ways to work with automation rather than against it.
Here's my three-step solution for middle class America to be ready for the automation age.
If you're not the next Elon Musk, the best thing you can do is learn to serve people like Musk who are inventing and leading us into the automation generation. The founders of this revolution are the mega wealthy, and we're not talking about the top 1%. These are people who make the top 1% seem poor. They are the ones who own a fleet of private jets, yachts and even their own islands.
Serving the wealthy is always a good way to make money, and this is especially true as it relates to automation. Problem solving is the fastest way to build wealth, so ask yourself: what problems are people like Elon musk and other innovators going to face? How can I serve these people? What skills and talents do I have that they are going to need?
First there were the big mainframe computers of the 1970s. Then the personal computer started to become commonplace in homes across America in the 1980s. And of course, the invention of the internet changed life as we know it in the late 1990s. The one thing all of these milestones have in common is they all needed support in order to survive. The people who acquired the necessary skills to support computers did very well for themselves. It didn't matter if it was learning to write code, repair or service computers, design websites or serve as a technology consultant. Big opportunity was everywhere and many people accumulated great amounts of wealth as a result.
The automation generation is no different, and is going to need major support. You can't wait until the technology is already here and used by everyone. The time to obtain the skills to support these systems is now.
Automation and technology are wonderful, but when things go wrong, they tend to go really wrong. We've already seen what can happen when technology that we take for granted goes astray. How many times have we heard about an airline computer system breaking down? The result is massive delays and headaches for millions of travelers. Or what happens when the electricity goes out? It turns our lives upside down.
No matter what the new technology is, it's going to need repairs when it breaks. It's going to need regular maintenance and support. It's going to need updates and adjustments. And this is great news for humans because it's going to be the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, the key is you have to know how to support these systems. So while many middle class jobs are in jeopardy and are going to eventually be cut, on the flip side, there's going to be so much opportunity like never before. I believe we're going to see more new millionaires than we've ever seen in this country as a result.
Salespeople are the backbone of any organization, and there's going to be huge opportunities to bring people together with products and services in the automation age. Who's going to sell the automation? Who's going to market it? The beauty of living in a capitalistic society means competition, and those who can connect the buyers and sellers and close the deals are looking at opportunities like never before.
Of course, any successful salesperson is only as good as the people and products behind him. Therefore, huge opportunities are also going to exist in marketing, public relations, advertising, photography, video production, graphic design, writing, editing and more.
The bottom line: automation is about to change the course of the world as we know it. It's going to be a great disruptor and impact middle class workers like nothing we've seen before. You have two choices: sit around and become a victim, or get excited and jump in the game while it's still early. America was built on innovation. Think of things like the railroad system, the assembly line, the highway system, the internet and more. Are you ready to become the next great innovator and continue the tradition? Or are you going to let the automation age sneak up on you and make your life a living nightmare? The choice is yours.