Defend Truth


AI and the internet cannot erase billions of jobs


Ian von Memerty is a Zimbabwean-born South African entertainer, actor, singer, musician, writer, director and television presenter.

The internet, artificial intelligence, and computers have not altered the core of the job market. So why are we feeding our children fear and lies?

Our children will have five jobs, three of which don’t exist yet.” It is a standard line that we hear at parties, in queues, and at school functions. And parents and teenagers all mindlessly agree and fret about failure if they don’t crack amazing results, and become tech-savvy entrepreneurs. And it is utter nonsense.

There are billions of jobs that existed before this “technical revolution” and that are not going anywhere. Yes, technology will alter how those jobs are done. Yes, technology may change whether there will be more or less of those jobs. But it is worth stating an obvious fact; most of the jobs that are already here are here to stay.

Let’s start with the basic day-to-day things we use and need. Shelter. Builders, architects, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, tilers, roofing specialists and so on (and all those companies that supply all the tools and equipment necessary for them to do their job). You want guaranteed employment anywhere in the world? Find a job in one of those multiple supply chains and you will probably always have work. No technology can replace you, or the supplies you will need. And as more and more of the world is connected to electricity, sanitation, Wi-Fi, in properly constructed houses, the need for those professions will increase, not decrease.

Staying with the obvious — we all need to eat. Fruit, veg, bread, milk, meat — more people eat more of those things every day. Bakers, butchers, farmers, millers and ranchers are never going away. Oh, we will hear about the demise of the agricultural sector, and all that adrenalised noise can drown out the central fact — we all need to eat. Every day.

That means a lot of work to ensure more than seven billion people (and rising) are fed. We all need to drink. The entire water supply industry from vast dam construction to urban water engineers, recycling experts, desalination plants, sanitation planners, pipe layers and drain diggers are always going to be needed. And with the world clustering in urban hubs, they will be needed even more.

And we are not done with the basics — we all need our hair cut, our clothes designed, made, and marketed, supermarkets to buy our food, our drink, our groceries, pharmacies for our cosmetics and medicines. The shopping lists get longer every day as the global middle class steadily swells. From warehouse security guards to shelf packers, from the shop manager to the till operator, hundreds of millions of people every day are needed to keep basic daily commerce moving.

Then there are the “celebrity” professions which have been around for more than three millennia, with gladiators and poets like Pindar. The world of music, sports, politics, movies, television. Politicians, pop stars, sports heroes, actors, singers, dancers, directors, writers (screen, script, non-fiction) are competing in a thriving world. As are the vast numbers of support people behind each “star”. This world is not in a drought, it is a year-round monsoon. These fashion “fad” industries change constantly, but the professions themselves are not going anywhere. Not to mention the sprawling megalithic media network of print, media, television and online reporters, who research, present (and misrepresent) the world around us.

And then there are the three professions that probably provide more emotional satisfaction than any other and are more vital to a successful society than any others.

First — health. Doctors… every kind; dentists, surgeons, psychologists, specialists, rehabilitation therapists, hospital administrators, porters, pharmacists and so on, and (most importantly) nurses. They care for more patients every day. They might write up their reports online and scan their patients with amazing new technology, but the people who treat us when we are in need — they are irreplaceable.

Second — safety and security. Police, armed forces, firemen, air traffic control, civil engineers, rescue services — the constant improvement in global civic society will surely force the market to place a premium on those skill sets.

Last, and most important — education. This profession is probably the most vital. Not only to prepare our kids who will go into the “new” and “cutting edge” industries, but our educators will help train, shape and direct every person who will be employed in any of the jobs above. From pre-primary caregivers to professors, we are going to need teachers forever. Some may work online — but is that so different from my first years of education? I was a farm child and my mother taught me by correspondence, where we tuned into the radio twice a week for “class” before I went to school.

Do we need to admit that our world is changing and evolving? Yes. Has every new development from the car, to the fridge, to the phone, to the web created new jobs and destroyed others? Yes. But in the interest of calm and sanity, we need to tell our children that mostly the world is the same old world, as un-newsworthy as that may be. Change scares a lot of people — let’s lessen their fear a bit. The future is not that different from the past, and the fact that you are probably reading this on your brand new electronic device doesn’t alter that fact. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted