The Second Industrial Revolution (Part 1 of 2)

Much like machinery replaced people’s jobs in factories, or at the very least, changed their job, computers and software will do the same for the services industry (think of desk jobs, or anything not in farming or manufacturing) . Companies are constantly testing/experimenting with new technologies and how they integrate into current production processes. Over time, best practices are broken down into smaller steps which technology can handle. Then it becomes easier to automate each of those components, much like machinery altered how manufacturing plants produced products. Think about it, in the industrial revolution, machines were bought and people’s jobs were changed to accommodate the new machinery, then as time goes by, you start to productionize tasks around the machines, to scale and make the machines as efficient as possible.

It’s interesting to note that the share of American employment in manufacturing has declined sharply since the 1950s, from almost 30% to less than 10%. At the same time, jobs in the Services industry soared, from less than 50% of employment to almost 70%. It’s inevitable, therefore, that firms would start to apply the same experimentation and reorganization to service industries.

The “machines” (computers and software), are not only becoming smarter, but they also have access to far more data than any human could sift through. The combination of big data and smart machines will take over some occupations wholesale; in others it will allow firms to do more with fewer workers. Some examples of jobs that could be replaced. Accountants may follow travel agents and tellers into the unemployment line as tax software improves. Machines are already turning basic sports results and financial data into good-enough news stories. And legal services is slowly being codified and productionized.  A taxi driver will be a rarity in many places by the 2030s or 2040s.

The productivity gains from future automation will be real, even if they mostly accrue to the owners of the machines…. On my next post I’ll post my thoughts on what these effects will have on the economy going forward.

Software is Eating the World. Coding Can Save You

“Hello World. I am writing this note to you from a portable number crunching machine, and transmitting it to your number machine via the interwebs portal.”

That message would have blown some people’s minds back in the 60’s. The introduction of technology like computers and the internet has fueled one of the greatest times of innovation in the history of mankind. And we’re smack in the middle of this seismic change.

About a year ago, it hit me. In order to be successful throughout your entire working career, one must be nimble and adapt to changes in the work place. For example, think about how efficient and effective you were at using a computer by the time you were 18. Our parents started their careers in the 60’s/70’s/80’s with calculators, not computers and spreadsheets like we do today. They were taught how to use a computer, not how they actually work. This lagging skill set drastically reduces their value in the workplace for a large number of jobs today. Because this lack of skills reduces job opportunities, they’re “forced” into positions that really only require the skills they had entering the workforce. Obviously their experience has fine-tuned this original skill set, but by refusing to be malleable at all times, they’ve limited themselves. Do you really want to be like Milton from Office Space someday?

Which brings me to the point of this article – “Software is eating the world.” – Marc Andreessen

Software is becoming more sophisticated and many of us are reaping the benefits that it provides. From the ability to seamlessly navigate a foreign city (Google Maps), have 20 million songs at the tip of our fingers (Spotify), or find local hotties without talking to them (Tinder), each one has changed the way we live. But isn’t anyone else curious how it all works? Not just how Google takes pictures of roads then uses your GPS location to tell you what restaurant is nearby. But how does the Google Maps software work to safely deliver us to our destination better than a personal chauffeur? No, just me?

Well it’s this curiosity that has me take a bold stance in my belief that coding is the computers of our parent’s generation. Software isn’t going away anytime soon. Since when has software (or technology, for that matter) made anything harder? I mean they even make 3D porn for crying out loud!

For some aspects of life, technology will never completely take over. One example (that I think will hold true) is customer service. There will be a nice marriage between the technology and humans, but never one or the other completely. Jobs that require soft skills will be safe, but not for long. I believe sales roles in certain organizations will be impacted in some way, but that’s a whole other post.

So go out there and learn to code and assemble a Robot Army (as my co-worker says). Learn Python, learn Ruby, learn NoSQL! Below are two links to articles that direct you to numerous sites that teach coding. If you want a suggestion on a programming (coding) language, start with Python. The best part of all these classes and tutorials is that 99% are free. So all it costs you is time. If I wasn’t learning to code, I’d probably have my hands down my pants watching “Married With Children” anyways.

“How I Taught Myself  To Code in Eight Weeks”

“Ten Sites That Teach Coding”

“Learn Python The Hard Way”

P.S. – I think my developer friends would agree with me, there’s a difference in knowing a programming language, and actually using it a in real world setting. There are countless checks, tests, etc that one needs to do before you release your code into an environment. It’s just like college, you think you know everything about a topic, but it’s real world application brings on a whole other set of challenges.