We live in an era of unusual disruption of cultures, lives and businesses by technologies. As a little boy, I listened to folklore under the moonlight in my south eastern Nigerian village. The elders told the stories of justice, bravery, honor and humanity. There was no cellphone and there was no distraction. Life was under a predictable pattern, especially in the evenings when boys and girls would wait in turns to play under the moonlight, and receive moral education carefully orchestrated in the stories told by the elders. Every child belongs to the village and parents are nothing but stewards.
As we trekked miles to fetch water and firewood for the family cooking, we enjoyed the songs of the happy birds. We treasured the flowers and the gentle winds out of the thick rain forest near our stream. It was a life of great tranquility and we never had a suicide in the village. By norms and traditions, the fishes in our stream must not be fished. They were preserved and in most cases we played with them.
When it was time for school, we continued on that village tradition of brotherhood. The elders have mapped out lands in the village where people could go and plant fruit trees so that any villager, when hungry, could go there and eat. It was forbidden to sell anything from that land because it was designed to be a ‘strategic food reserve’. It worked; I planted an orange tree and my best friend gave the village a coconut tree.
But that was then. Many things have since changed, not just in my village, but around the world. Technology is disrupting all aspects of human existence and our lifestyles have changed. Industries are being demised and new ones are coming up with our lexicons constantly evolving to accommodate new tech-evolutions.
Food preparation has been professionalized and families do not need to know how to cook. Technology and globalization have already changed family traditions.
As a boy, I heard of professional typists. These were specially trained pros who could churn out characters on typewriters at amazing speed. There are few of them today. There were shorthand experts; people that could write on special characters in order to capture statements as fast as they are spoken by their employers.
Many of these professions have since gone or are going. Technology is displacing their services. Computers make mastering of typing not a big deal since it does not cost anything to edit and delete when using word processing software. Compare that with erasing and changing stencils in a typewriter, you will appreciate the level of innovation that has taken place. A single mistake in a page could render the whole document useless; the typist has to start over, especially in quality documents, where erasure is not permitted. So the trade was to get people that could type with zero error, and at fast speed.
For those that are shorthand experts, video recorders with translation capability make it unnecessary to be writing when a politician or anyone is talking. Just record and soon print out the transcripts. Those experts are also fading. It is rare to see a journalist job that requires mastering of shorthand as Isaac Pitman invented it.
Have you noticed that the city of London could police the whole city through video cameras when in the old dull days, policemen might have been used? Those traffic policemen we used to see across many African cities are disappearing as most of the cities install traffic light systems. Those jobs or careers are being displayed by technology.
What of language interpreters? I recall a meeting in Kenya where someone was giving a speech in French and the interpreters were interpreting in English, Arabic and Portuguese. It worked out so well. But that career will soon die. If Apple or any of the Smartphone makers develop a good language translator in their gizmos, we may not need the interpreters, at least, in some gatherings.
Planning Careers of the Future
So, we have got a lot of challenges in career planning these days. Does it make sense to pursue this career considering how technology could change it in the future? How many ticket masters were displaced when airplane ticketing moved online? How will software affect journalism in the future? How is technology affecting parenting since technology is increasingly displacing our attention to our families? Those late night emails and constant trips to the phones at 10pm are all disruptions.
Planning for careers is not just focusing on what happens today or maybe in two years time. You must have a feel of where technology is going and then anticipate and stay ahead in your career. A business model to open physical bookshops may not be a good idea since most people rarely care to know the bookshop around their neighborhood these days. The first point is to order from eBay, Amazon or BN, if you are living in U.S. The local bookstore is model already endangered. The same goes with building cinema halls. Netflix, iROKOtv and others are our virtual cinema halls. They do not need physical locations; only that you must join via an IP address.
The interesting thing about this technology disruption on careers is that it does not matter what your level of education is. It could be that your industry is booming but has moved out of your locality. That brings the degree to which your field is outsourced. The easier your job can be automated by technology, the higher is the risk of technology displacement.
So when people discuss career planning, it is very imperative that you understand how technology and not just wages could play out in the future. If you specialize in a special type of engine design and from all trends, it is evident that that engine is going to be obsolete and you refuse to adapt and be retrained, you could be in trouble. Ask the expert photographers that made fortune washing and developing films in dark rooms. Those that failed to move to digital photography are only in history books.
Our world has been made better by technology because it improves our productivity and standard of living. However, it also carries a major challenge: disrupting careers and moving many jobs to museums. It is very important you stay ahead and see how new technologies could disrupt and displace your job. Never wait, plan ahead, and stay above technological innovation with new skills. In this age, as netizens, we must be learning constantly so that we can be ready for whatever comes. We already live in the web, so becoming Homo Netizens as Homo Sapiens may be one aspect of our adaptation. There is nothing you cannot learn from the web these days. That career resilience, disrupted by technology, can also be cushioned by technology. The web is an ocean with unbounded and unconstrained knowledge. You just have to make sure that you are swimming in the right direction with the waves.