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Humans Need Not Apply!

Humans Need Not Apply!
by Daniel Nenni on 09-11-2014 at 7:00 am

 With four children entering the job market I have a very simple piece of advice: DO NOT RUN FROM TECHNOLOGY, EMBRACE IT! Smartphones are now a “natural” part of modern life. We work on them, we play on them, we shop with them, we socialize with them, even risk our lives using them. Come on, every single person with a smartphone has used it while driving at least once. What’s coming next courtesy of our smartphone is rampant unemployment. Take a look at this clever video from C.P.G. Grey. It is well worth the 15 minutes:

This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

When I grew up, choosing a career was all about making money because as a family of 8 we did not have much to spare. Today I tell my children to choose a career they really, really enjoy because 30+ years is a long time to be doing it. So far I have a Math Teacher, a Fireman, a Mathematician, and a budding Marine Biologist and I couldn’t be prouder.

Fortunately for me, my teenage interests included electronics which brought me to computers then to semiconductors. Being in Northern California helped since Silicon Valley is where the fabless semiconductor ecosystem really began. I do remember however breaking the news to my family that I would do my undergraduate in computer science and receiving mixed reactions. Most notably was my Grandfather, a World War 1 veteran and bookkeeper by trade, who felt that computers would cause rampant unemployment akin to the Great Depression which he experienced firsthand. He lived to be 102 years old and I was his caregiver for the last 15 of those years so I heard some amazing stories, absolutely.

Going to the bank and the grocery store were two of his favorite outings and I remember when he saw his first ATM he honestly felt it was the beginning of the end. Scanners at the grocery store checkout were also not to be trusted so he would check his receipt like a bank statement. And he did find errors which pleased him on many different levels. Even today I sometimes find errors on my grocery receipt so that much has not changed.

Moving forward our smartphones will keep doing more for us, requiring less from us, and eliminating interactions with people on all professional levels. While I certainly do look forward to spending less time with doctors (health apps) and more time with new semiconductor based technology (IoT), I do wonder what stories I will tell my grandchildren. Given what we have accomplished in the last 30 years some of the stories will be hard for them to believe. Like the story my grandfather told me about delivering ice door-to-door every morning to make extra money. To his dying day his favorite “contraption” was the ice maker.

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