Thinking Jobs in the Future

By Robert Hickson 23/03/2012 2

Writing on the Atlantic’s website, Alan Jacobs notes the error in assuming today’s leisure activities will be tomorrow’s jobs. In particular he argues that it is a fallacy that most jobs will involve searching and assimilating data (I could also add that machines may replace people in collating and analysing data).

Alan challenges the thesis of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. He states

… patience and self-reflectiveness are going to be in much shorter supply than quickness of judgment.

Of course in some situations (like a power grid about to go offline) you do want quick judgement and action. But in other cases more information may not make the situation clearer or suggest an appropriate response. So reasoning and reflection are the skills we need to improve not just how to do a better search.

2 Responses to “Thinking Jobs in the Future”

  • There’s an ironic saying in that you get paid for doing the unpleasant tasks in life. However, the writer ignores the fact that for certain types of professions where “creative” flow is essential, there may be a long period of mastery (read Outliers). Basically the employor is paying for the prior suffering as obvious scarcity means even if you offer high salaries, there’s just NO warm bodies.

    Give you an obvious example, there’s currently a shortage of electronics Patent attorneys. This is not that surprising since both are deep disciplines and law is famous for burnout. Even if you outsource to IP firms springing up in India you will not get the same depth of expertise. Certain fun activities like invalidating crappy patents can be crowd-sourced but the upfront investment in time/talent is once off.

    I’d agree with you that self-reflection and deep systematic thinking is in short supply in an attention-deficit world.

  • I agree entirely – having been a patent attorney trained in chemistry in the 1960s (and law in the 1970s) who evolved into a biotech specialist by the time I retired in 2006. Since then I have been a critic of nearsighted, ad hoc and sometimes conflicting IP related policies advocated by policy silos in different and sometimes the same government departments.

    I attended the Internet NZ election debate in Wellington in October and the bright young candidates (led by Gareth Hughes of the Greens) were quick to pounce on Steven Joyce for only recently having joined Twitter. But the rest of the debate gave little evidence that the same bright young candidates were able to formulate many thoughts longer than a 140 character tweet. Digital natives may find themselves like city dwellers lost in the Tararuas if faced with having to think through the wider implications of what they are doing. (For example, an ardent anti-capitalist idealist may be tweeting about the excesses and evil practices of multi-national companies on an iPhone – made by Apple, which currently has the largest capitalisation on the New York stock exchange and has been taken to task for the work practices of the companies that make iPhones in China.)

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