3 answers

If many jobs in the future (perhaps MOST jobs) will be replaced by machines and Artificial Intelligence, what should we be studying in college?

Updated Los Angeles, California

I read Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano" as well as several of his short stories that depict a future in which all "jobs" have been eliminated - machines do everything. The people who have meaningful work find their life has less meaning. They ask, "What are humans FOR?"

So, I wonder what students should be studying now to prepare for a future in which many jobs we take for granted - from Uber Driver to Accountant to Teacher to Doctor - could be replaced by a more efficient, lower-cost computer.

#future-careers #future #creativity #job #job-search #job-coaching #technology

3 answers

Maggie’s Answer

Updated Washington, Washington

Hi, Sophie. I don't think it's at all possible to prepare totally for the unknown. Right now, we still need Uber drivers, accountants, teachers, etc. I would say to study what you love, and be willing to adapt. Even Kurt Vonnegut probably switched from using a typewriter to a computer! But he still wrote. I am in a career (real estate finance) that I never thought might be automated some day, but it has become very automated and I still have a very interesting job. I've seen a lot of changes, and things I spent hours doing can now take minutes. But other tasks fill the gaps, and my experience is still important in what I do. I do see that every year there are many more tech jobs in my industry. If you want to be part of the change, study AI! But don't let the unknown stop you from doing what you love.

Thanks for your answer! I am very interested in A.I. although more from a liberal arts perspective than a tech perspective. I'm not a Luddite, just interested in the implications of "work" being eliminated by technology. I agree about doing what you love. Kurt Vonnegut loved his typewriter, but I like writing online. http://amberpaulen.com/descriptedlines/why-vonnegut-used-a-typewriter.html

Steve’s Answer

Updated Cedar Grove, New Jersey

Hi Sophie, It's great that you are thinking about the future and how to prepare for it. I currently am implementing automation within Verizon. We are using software to replace the manual effort of people, allowing them to focus on activities and decisions that are more valuable than mechanically moving data around. Machines are very good at doing things people are not and people are very good at doing things machines cannot do well. While this balance of capabilities is continually changing, there will always be a role for people in the production of value. As new technologies replace jobs, generally new jobs are created. As in the industrial revolution, engineers became important to the factory that replaced craftsman, professional managers replaced company founders as organizations became larger and expansive. Then there were the role in transportation, truck drivers to deliver the goods that were no longer produced locally.

This will be true with automation in offices. Many of the people who previously performed the work being automated are the people programming the bots performing that work. Some things you can do to help ensure you can thrive in a future job market are:

  • Never stop learning, continue to have that spark of interest in how the world is changing and what the impacts may be.
  • You'll be working for a long time, so it's important that you develop skills that are marketable as well as a career that sparks your passion and something you can do well. You'll be spending a lot of time working over your life, it helps to spend that time doing something that interests you. You'll be that much more authentic and successful when you internal motivations drive your pursuit in a job.
  • Be willing to get uncomfortable in the things you do, when it feels uncomfortable, it's probably an area where you will benefit from growth.


Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer! May I ask a follow up? You say that when jobs are eliminated, new jobs are created. This seems exciting for liberal arts students who "learn how to learn" more than prepare for a specific career. But what happens when AI gets good at, not only what humans are bad at, but what humans are good at too?
Hi Sophie, I tend to think that technology is and will remain a poor substitute for human contact. Machines cannot replace the innate qualities that humans have. AI is just another form of technology. Humans have been creating tech for millennia as a means of increasing efficiency and improving human existence. I think it's unlikely that AI will be a replacement for all things humans need and find valuable. Steve

Karen’s Answer

Updated Saint Paul, Minnesota

No matter how many machines there might be, there will always be a need for people skills -- leadership, communication, team skills, good listening ability, organizational skills, etc.  Suggest you keep focused on some of these skills and look for a position that will use them.