There once where some givens in life. If you grew up living on a farm, more than likely you’d become a farmer. If you grew up the son of a blacksmith, you’d likely become one yourself. A hundred years later, generally there aren’t very many blacksmiths, and farms are run with large equipment that allows a single farmer to tend to twenty times the land, which is getting scarcer to find due to industrialization and urbanization of said land.
Jobs are no longer lifestyles, and careers are no longer stable. Just as we started to adapt as a society to industrialization the information age came and changed the rules again. When I was born, the only computers available required teams of trained staff to operate punch-card readers, and anything small and solid-state you had to invent or at least assemble yourself and they didn’t do very much. The very next year Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak put out a computer called the Apple Two. It was small, self-contained and almost affordable. Plug it into your television and read programs off your tape recorder – devices many people already had in their homes.
Suddenly anyone could word-process, balance their checkbook and play arcade games in their home. IBM was forced to reckon with this change and develop the PC to compete. Bill Gates bought an operating system that was a copy of CP/M (the owner of CP/M thought he was crazy and refused to be a part of it) and adapted it to the system IBM created and after this the world was never the same.
Now the secretary pools are obsolete since CEO’s can hammer out a memo in their own words, spell-checked and formatted in a few minutes. The jobs promised people of my generation are rapidly vaporizing. Auto-mechanics need computer skills since our vehicles are become largely information appliances on wheels. Assembly is being outsourced to newly industrialized Asian countries who can do the job cheaper. Computer tech’s are being phased out due to hardware and software becoming obsolete and replaced long before it actually breaks down. I have a feeling that as wireless technology improves and becomes cheaper, network administrators will be no longer required in force. One person could oversee an entire office network with ease.
So what’s a fellow to do? Even the computer skills that I’ve belabored to develop are getting behind the times. I once believed if I knew C++ I’d be set! That’s the kind of thing we where brought up to understand – the industrial concepts applied to information technology. Learn your trade then make a career out of it. Set for life.
People are doing jobs now that didn’t exist only a few years ago. Not only has the information age changed the landscape, it’s doing it on a daily basis. I’m only 27 (well, OK, in two days I’ll be 28) and already I’m starting to feel the sting of being behind the times. These things where all emerging when I was a lad, and nobody anywhere at the time knew what the impact would be. Once you could plan on having a career, now they’re telling young people that’s not going to happen – plan on two or three, or more!
I guess I’m going to have to rethink our industrial work paradigms, because the world has changed and they no longer fit. I do hope this is a fun ride…