Success In The Age Of Automation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people possessing a bachelors degree still make more than people who only complete a high school diploma or an associates degree in full-time work. A talented masters degree recipient makes on average 15% more than those who hold a four year degree, as long as both are over the age of 25. Professional degrees tend to generate 50% more return over a person’s investment against a bachelors degree. Clearly, pursuing formal education is worthwhile statistically but not in the way you may think. 

The majority of people would agree that when a person combines a solid college education with hard work, it is nearly impossible to fail. Although this has been the case for many years, I don’t think that we are operating under the same criteria anymore. A college degree and hard work isn’t enough for you to succeed in the workforce anymore — at least not in the long run. College students must work with professors who understand where the economy is going and how to anticipate the effects of automation in their fields during academic advising and work together to come up with a strategy to deal with these challenges overtime.

I would even argue that strong interpersonal and cross cultural communication skills are also required for graduates to succeed over time in 2017 due to the fact that we now belong to the world economy. Being able to interact with others will prove to be an indispensable skillset for millenniums to have because it will be a commodity. As more automation is introduced in the workforce, we are going to find ourselves relying more on these systems yet leadership will do business as usual, interpersonally.   

We live in a society that is fast paced, driven by expertise and hard work, where investors want to get immediate return over their capital investments so that more innovation is then infused back in the workforce in order to maximize profit, even if your job is at stake regardless of your work ethic. If we ignore how technology is evolving in our industries, we run the risk of putting ourselves out of business before the first quarter!

Where is Kodak today? Do you remember CompUSA? I don’t believe that the employees who worked for these companies were all incompetent. I am also skeptical that they may have all been lazy and therefore their mother companies either ceased to exist or significantly reduced their operations. Maybe there was another reason for why they all lost their positions within the American corporate world. To me, the differentiator that has made them move from a leader to being a player or no player in the American business landscape was how they calculated rates of automation in their own industries overtime.

A college graduate must understand this reality not after years working for Amazon but while they are in high school. As a parent, you must tell your kids that life today is in many respects more difficult than life was for you as our economy now has more people competing for positions, less jobs available and has an increasing amount of automation impacting these former dynamics which can only result in one inevitable outcome — potential unemployment for those who aren’t experts in their field of study or who have poor work ethic and ignore the predictable changes that automation will bring to their industries.

I may appear to be overly cautious about the systemic side effects of innovation in the American workforce sometimes but I find it difficult to believe that my concerns for the sustainability of small town living and progress for the middle class isn’t grounded in sound principles of what makes companies successful overtime. Perhaps if companies like Sears and Borders were more sensitive to the automation that was occurring at Wal-Mart and Amazon, they would still be with us today.

We live in a world market by change and automation. Failing to compute its impacts on our long-term economic sustainability seems juvenile to me. We need to be proactive and increase our awareness of the inevitable impacts of automation so we can keep achieving the American dream.