Looking for job security in the knowledge economy? Just learn to code.
As coding becomes more commonplace, particularly in developing nations like India, we find a lot of that work is being assigned piecemeal by computerized services such as Upwork to low-paid workers in digital sweatshops.
The better opportunity may be to use your coding skills to develop an app or platform yourself, but this means competing against thousands of others doing the same thing-and in an online marketplace ruled by just about the same power dynamics as the digital music business.
Learning code is hard, particularly for adults who don’t remember their algebra and haven’t been raised thinking algorithmically.
Learning code well enough to be a competent programmer is even harder.
Although I certainly believe that any member of our highly digital society should be familiar with how these platforms work, universal code literacy won’t solve our employment crisis any more than the universal ability to read and write would result in a full-employment economy of book publishing.
Every time a company decides to relegate its computing to the cloud, it’s free to release a few more IT employees.
Finally, there are jobs for those willing to assist with our transition to a more computerized society.
As employment counselors like to point out, self-checkout stations may have cost you your job as a supermarket cashier, but there’s a new opening for that person who assists customers having trouble scanning their items at the kiosk, swiping their debit cards, or finding the SKU code for Swiss chard.
It’s a slightly more skilled job and may even pay better than working as a regular cashier.
For the moment, we’ll need more of those specialists than we’ll be able to find-mechanics to fit our current cars with robot drivers, engineers to replace medical staff with sensors, and to write software for postal drones.
Today, it’s MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee who appear to be leading the conversation about technology’s impact on the future of employment-what they call the “Great decoupling.” Their extensive research shows, beyond reasonable doubt, that technological progress eliminates jobs and leaves average workers worse off than they were before.
When technology increases productivity, a company has a new excuse to eliminate jobs and use the savings to reward its shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks.