By Tony Brown

January 2017

What will the future job market look like, and has your education prepared you to adapt to the changes ahead?

Many forecasters, such as entrepreneur Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame, are telling us that advances in artificial intelligence and robotics will eliminate many jobs and make our current skills obsolete. A 2016 Foundation for Young Australians research report on new types of jobs showed that 60% of students were chasing careers that were on the verge of becoming obsolete due to improvements in technology. Similarly, a 2014 Oxford University report found that nearly one-third of all UK jobs could be made obsolete by robotics, artificial intelligence and computer technology within the next 20 years.

These predicted changes will happen not just in industrial jobs, but in fields and roles that have previously seemed impervious to this kind of disruption, such as personal assistants, store salespeople, some service providers and even lawyers.

In a recent article in the New York Times, entitled “The Long-Term Job Killer is Not China, It’s Automation”, author Claire Cain Miller warns that “the changes are not just affecting manual labor: Computers are rapidly learning to do some white-collar and service-sector work, too.” The author goes on to cite a McKinsey report that existing technology could automate 45 percent of the activities that people are now paid to do. “Work that requires creativity, management of people or caregiving is least at risk,” said Miller. Read the report here.

How do we make the future work for us?

One way to survive in this kind of world is to learn from nature. For sixteen years, students at Ecosa Institute have been exploring natural ecosystems by visiting many cultural, historical and natural sites. Students see firsthand that specialization is not always a useful strategy in a changing environment. Nature’s systems are constantly evolving and dependent upon resources from and cooperation with one another. Specialization, whether in nature or in learning, does not depend upon collaboration, adaptations or multiple choices. Specialization is pretty much a stand-alone gig and leaves no room for handling unexpected changes or shifts.

 And since change is what our world is all about, a smart strategy is resilience, built with flexibility, creativity, and diversity. Adapting to change at any level requires a holistic understanding and approach that can broaden knowledge and skill sets and allow us to face change head on. Multiple knowledge equals multiple choice.

Our current education system does a fine job of providing future workers with specialist knowledge which, for the most part, has produced many fine careers. But as we look to the future and consider the impacts of technological advances, as we see the job environment changing, many of these specialized careers may fade away.

“Only the best-educated humans will compete with machines. And education systems in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world are still sitting students in rows and columns, teaching them to keep quiet and memorize what is told to them, preparing them for life in a 20th-century factory.”                                                          — Howard Rheingold, tech writer and analyst

What then might be a better strategy for your future? How can you get the kind of education that will allow you to weather these changes, some of which we can’t even imagine yet?

Explore our Ecological Design Certificate Program now.

Look for Part 2 in this series on how ecological design can be a change agent.


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