Adapting to changing circumstances

Those that adapt to the changing times and environment will survive.

Indeed so. And it’s always later than you think.

Jobs that I might have applied for as a young adult but which have basically vanished since: boilerman, draughtsman, filing clerk.

Obviously, there are other tech-specific jobs that once were more numerous but now are scarce: farrier, wheelwright, etc. but I’m thinking of common jobs that I’d typically see in the local newspaper classifieds.

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image from http://www.aviationarchive.org.uk/Gpages/html/G1649.html

Due to the labour-intensive nature of the job, automation gains were huge, I’d bet that just a single CAD operator can do all the work of the entire staff shown above.

These are jobs that disappeared quite early on in my working lifetime. In my mid-teens I decided I wanted to be an artist, my parents were horrified at the prospect and put me under a lot of pressure to train as a draughtsman. I entertained the idea for a while, then the realisation dawned that I’d basically be spending the rest of my life drawing toilet seats for a living. But I needn’t have worried, had I chosen to make a career as a draughtsman, it’d have been a mercifully short one, made redundant by a plotter.

And so it continues …

THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION? Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, September 17, 2013

We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To assess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a Gaussian process classifier.

Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment.

According to our estimates, about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk. We further provide evidence that wages and educational attainment exhibit a strong negative relationship with an occupation’s probability of computerisation.

We’re now living on the steep bit of the exponential curve and change is happening even faster. The well-staffed drafting office of the 50s was pretty much extinct by the 1980s in terms of vacancies in the classifieds. What are the odds that the job of “web site designer” will have all but vanished by, ooh say 2045? 2030? 2025? That’s assuming it’s not basically just an anachronism right now, given the front-end / back-end distinction that is apparently beginning to dominate thinking.

Whatever you think about cryptocurrency, it’s fairly clear now that the idea is here to stay, for reasons we have yet to fully understand and to fulfil a purpose that we cannot yet clearly discern.

Cheers

Graham


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