Is technology really replacing tech jobs?

Picture this: A vehicle stops outside your home. You get in. Your favourite music starts to play. The news that you are interested in, or the next episode your favourite series, appears on the in-vehicle screen. Today, there’s an obstacle on your usual route, the vehicle automatically figures out and takes an alternate route. It stops at your destination and you get out. Exactly on time.

On the roads, a quarter of a million minibus taxis are travelling at 100km per hour, one vehicle’s length apart. Nothing new there. Except that there are no taxi drivers. And no accidents. Also, there’s no longer a need for traffic lights and traffic cops.

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If there are no accidents, there’s no need for panel beaters or accident insurance. In fact, there is no need for vehicle theft insurance either. Or petrol stations, or pump attendants. There are also no parking lots at shopping centres and no parking garages under office blocks because no one is parking their own private vehicles there.

Already, in 2016, a boytjie from Pretoria had taken orders for 276 000 just such autonomous vehicles — before they were even on the assembly line. (How many workers will be employed on that automated assembly line?)

The world is changing radically while you are reading this. What was common place ten years ago that has all but disappeared today? Remember payphones, fax machines, cheque books, phone books…? What else will we no longer need?

Just as newspapers are being replaced by online news, so traditional journalists are being replaced by citizen journalists and bloggers. Technology has also impacted accounting jobs. Easy to use online bookkeeping apps are being adopted by financially-illiterate small business owners.

When will these jobs be gone: cashiers (tap-n-go cards), assembly line workers (robots), air force pilots and foot soldiers (auto-piloted drones), postal deliverymen (email), data capturers (OCR), video stores (streaming movies), travel agencies (online booking)…?

Template-based websites and mobile apps are replacing coding where they are good enough for businesses that consider Gmail addresses acceptable. I’m not a tech person but I wrote my first website using HTML because Dreamweaver hadn’t been written yet. Today the average Joe or Neo can produce something passable using WordPress.

Almost any job that can be reduced to repetitive processes can be taken over by technology. Are there tech jobs that fit this description? Which tech jobs are at risk today? Is yours? Over the next few years, how many tech jobs will technology displace?

Edwin Louis Cole once observed that “Reasonable men adapt to the world around them; unreasonable men make the world adapt to them. The world is changed by unreasonable men.” You may not be an entrepreneur but if you don’t adapt to the world that is being changed by ‘unreasonable men’, you will be out of work.

What are you doing to make sure that your career is future-proof?

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