At his Harvard University commencement speech,
Facebook chief executive Zuckerberg had some tough words for the Class of 2017.
“Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by
automation like self-driving cars and trucks,” he said, adding, “When our
parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your
community. But today, technology and automation are eliminating many jobs.
Membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and
depressed, and are trying to fill a void.”
the founder of Microsoft earlier this month, sounded the same warning.
said he didn’t want to sound like the guy from “The Graduate,” which celebrates
50 years this year. In that movie, old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) was
given this very famous piece of advice: “I just want to say one word to you.
Just one word …Plastics,” And today? That word would likely be “robots.”
Gates took his 34.8 million
Twitter followers by the virtual shoulder and said “artificial
intelligence” would have a huge impact. In other words, why not join the
revolution? After all, that’s exactly what Zuckerberg and Gates did with social
media and computer software.
But that’s not the only
response to the robot revolution. Last February, Gates also told Quartz that
robots should free up labor “and give graduates an opportunity to focus on jobs
that only let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller
class sizes, helping kids with special needs. You know, all of those are things
where human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique.” Gates said
there is a counter-intuitive way of approaching the rise of robots. “So if you
can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces ...then you’re
too spoke about finding meaningful jobs and purpose in this new automated
“Class of 2017, you are
graduating into a world that needs purpose. It’s up to you to create it,” he
said, adding, “Taking on big meaningful projects is the first thing we can do
to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. The second is
redefining equality to give everyone the freedom they need to pursue purpose.
Many of our parents had stable jobs throughout their careers.” Today’s
graduates, he said, will need to carve their own path, but have the freedom to
fail and to try again.
Robots are expected to
create 15 million new jobs in the
U.S. over the next 10 years, as a direct result of automation and
artificial intelligence, equivalent to 10% of the workforce, a recent report by
Forrester Research found. The downside: robotics will also kill 25 million jobs
over the same period. So in one way Gates is correct. Artificial intelligence
and automation is an area undergoing a seismic shift, just like computers did
in the 1980s and plastics did 30 years before that, and how people around the
world changed how to communicate and share information about themselves (and,
yes, data about themselves) 10 years ago.
what field will be hot 50 years from now?
Some 65% of Americans expect
that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do
much of the work currently done by humans, according to a survey by the Pew
Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. Some 38% of jobs in
the U.S. are at “high risk” of being replaced by robots and artificial
intelligence over the next 15 years, a separate estimate by consulting and
accounting firm PwC found, which is still lower than Germany (35%) and the U.K.
But for those who don’t want
to work in artificial intelligence, there are some “robot-proof” careers, at
least for now. They include composers and artists, nurse practitioners, home
health aides, elder care specialists, child care workers, engineers, teachers
and, finally, human resources executives, a report released earlier this month
by careers firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas concluded. What’s more, many
traditionally blue-collar jobs will be hard to replace, including carpenters,
plumbers, electricians. And, of course, robot engineers will not be replaced by
jobs appear most at risk from robots, economists predict.
For those who want to avoid
being replaced by robots, a college education will likely help. As MarketWatch
previously reported, there’s an 83% chance that automation will replace a job
that pays $20 per hour, according to a White House report released last year.
It found that there’s only a 31% chance that robots will take over a job that
pays between $30 and $40 per hour, and only a 4% chance that automation will
replace jobs with an hourly wage over $40.
also cited biosciences and energy as a good bet for the Class of 2017.
Traditional energy and energy efficiency sectors employ around 6.4 million
Americans, according to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. These
sectors increased in 2016 by around 5% on the previous year and account for
roughly 14% of all those created in the country. A job in biosciences are
increasing at a rate of 10% per year, the latest report on the industry by the
Biotechnology Innovation Organization estimated, and employs nearly 1.7 million
people in the U.S.
Zuckerberg also had some words of wisdom for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
“Let me tell you a secret: no one does when they begin. Ideas don’t come out fully
formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get
started,” he said. “If I had to understand everything about connecting people
before I began, I never would have started Facebook. Movies and pop culture get
this all wrong. The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes
us feel inadequate since we haven’t had ours. It prevents people with seeds of
good ideas from getting started.”