In the future, there will only be 3 industries. Actually, there won’t be 3, there will be a single, interconnected ecosystem of companies so closely joined that they will be indistinguishable. But for old-school thought purposes, which most of us still use, there will only be 3 industries.
NOTE: These are private industries. We will ignore governmental functions and the military-industrial complex, since (while definitely there) are not private industries for purposes of this discussion.
Anything and everything will simply be offshoots of these 3 industries. I think this centralization will occur for efficiency reasons, and because strength and success tend to lead to more strength and success. see The Law of Matthew, Pareto Distributions, and “The basic rule is this: Never support weakness; always support strength.” —The Bene Gesserit Azhar Book. Also, this is my personal observation.
Everything is a tech business. Even those 2 industries later on the list will have tech facilitating them. The job will be automated, or (in cases where the human touch is necessary for emotional reasons) used to augment the humans performing the job.
This will lead to a greater level of human interaction and emotional connection in those jobs where humans are still present. Technology will take care of the boring, time-consuming aspects, freeing humans to focus on what they have been doing best for millennia: caring about and focusing on other humans.
For the fully automated jobs, this will lead to slicing the cords of human connection which formerly added flavor to life. An automated taxi might be able to navigate the New York streets faster, though I will personally miss the lively conversation, swearing, and occasional disagreements from human drivers which add zest and entertainment to life.
One Example: Starbucks
Isn’t Starbucks a coffee company?
No. Just read It’s Not about the Coffee by Howard Behar. It’s about the emotion and the space, not coffee. I actually Starbucks; wherever on the globe I go there’s tasty food, clean bathrooms, wifi, and a friendly business I trust emotionally.
Here’s a path Starbucks might take:
Tracking sales minute-to-minute, going through big data sets to analyze emotional trends on social media, examining beverage discussions online for ideas, and A/B testing store layouts to optimize for emotional experience. Track people’s changing body temperatures, pupil dilation, where their eyes wander in the store, etc. to better manage customers emotional reactions.
Place chips into the paper cups to track things like:
- number of physical hand touches,
- number of touches to lips,
- heat of the beverage,
- disposal radius of the cup
(where the cup gets discarded will probably say something interesting about customer behavior patterns),
A much better data set than simply relying on focus groups. The whole world and every single customer is a member of your constantly updating, ever evolving focus group data set.
Of course, people will not see the software and technology. But that does not mean it’s not there. And you know what? You’ll like it even more because of this.
Everything is either pasteurized for protection, or encapsulated for enjoyment.
~ James Burke
Everything will become a tech. company. If you think about your industry, I bet you can see how some things will be automated, but that’s only the service. You might not see it, but it will be there. And you will love it more because of this.
I see entertainment as one of the few industries subverting the coming tidal wave. Technology will enable entertainment (Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, etc.), but I see the film & other entertainment industry slices having enough money, social status, and clout to remain relevant.
Further, entertainment is an industry which thrives off of Black Swan events. These unpredictable, paradigm-shifting occurrences (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, etc.) ideas, franchises, etc. are what sustain Hollywood long-term, even as it milks existing franchises with sequels for cash while it waits for those blockbusters. The closer you can move your profession to the unpredictable nature of human creativity, the more chance you have to win in the future.
Finally, entertainment is an intimately human medium, while tech. tends to attract people who aren’t as savvy when it comes to human interaction and emotions. There’s some overlap to be sure, but this mental disjoint gives entertainment another advantage for staying ahead of the technology T-Rex.
2.a. Tech. & Entertainment
To be sure, tech. will profoundly change entertainment. In the last 20 years Pixar has shown what software can do for animation, and that doesn’t even touch on the ability to read emotions, gauge responses, and truly analyze audiences.
If you’re really interested, see the short film “Real Artists” by Cameo Wood, just 12 minutes long. With a background in tech., she’s able to show just how much you can use technology to read people’s emotional responses. See it on AmazonVideo.
Finance and Excel Spreadsheets make the world turn. They are the engine of capital investment, and ultimately decide what happens in the world.
Google, Apple, Facebook, Uber, and Amazon would not have happened if not for venture capitalists, and investors hold quite a bit of power over what deals happen, which satellites are funded, and which way the earth turns.
Finance has the money and status to keep itself intact. They will become augmented by large-data-set analysis (excuse me, they *already have been* augmented), but will remain controlled by the humans who control the decisions. Those human decision makers will be able to stay ahead of the game, and if they are canny and back the right horse will make even massively more money as more and more tasks are automated.
The financial decision makers hold the reigns, and are an abstraction that everything rests on. More even than electricity or the internet, without finance people would get laid off, the economy would tumble, etc. Look at the most recent economic ‘hiccup’ in 2008. Tech and software are important, but without money behind them nothing would happen.
4. So, What Do *I* Do About This?
This is a pickle, no doubt about it. But there are some uniquely human strategies to cope.
4.a. Human Relationships
This is something that cannot be automated. Being able to talk to people and make friends, being able to hold an interesting conversation, being able to deliver value to the people you interact with. These are things that cannot (yet) be algorithmatized.
People use computers, but they want to do business with other humans. They want to make deals with humans, and feel connected and respected in their profession.
The higher up in a company you go, not only are the cognitive demands greater but the relationship demands are greater. If you con focus on your human relationships, this will massively positively impact your ability to rise, regardless of your industry.
4.b. Move Up the Abstraction Stack
The more concrete you job is, the more easy it is to automate. Flip burgers, drive a taxi, brew a cup of coffee, etc.
All of those tasks/problems are pretty easily defined. After 90 seconds, flip the burger. Then do X to the burger. Successful result: cooked burger. Or, drive someone from Point A to Point B. Successful result: Person gets from Point A to Point B, and nobody else is a victim of vehicular homicide.
The more abstract your job is, the harder it is to automate. Negotiating for better rates with a supplier, organizing product distribution networks, getting the ‘feel’ right for a new product, coming up with a new marketing campaign, etc.
All of those are harder to define the parameters of. Does the new marketing campaign ‘feel’ right? Did we get better rates from the supplier, or do they have more bargaining leverage? Does it make sense to go through the headache of changing suppliers? Those are more abstract, difficult to measure questions and answers. Yet extremely important.
As much as possible, maneuver yourself into performing more abstract jobs. Every job has some amount of abstraction, some amount of unknowns you’re dealing with, from driving cars to flipping burgers. Otherwise, it would already be automated 🙂
But the more abstract your job, the harder it is to automate AND the more potential payoff there is. If you organize a great marketing campaign you can get a big raise and make a lot more money than if you’re a great barista, even if you’re the best barista in the world. Of course, as a marketing executive the stakes and expectations are also much higher.
4.c. Personal Creativity Skills
This is really another way of saying the above 2 points. The more skills you have, personally, that are creative the more upside potential you have.
The more you can draw, have visual design skills, speak compellingly to get your ideas across, develop software yourself, and/or create a track record of creative achievement, the more potential value you have. It is a riskier path than something “predictable” or “reliable”, but I don’t think “predictable” is as safe as people think. Predictable tends to look stable until a catastrophe, while risk is risky the whole time – but gives you a lot of potential to capture serendipity.
A Note On Citations: I draw my information from a wide variety of sources I’ve read, and will cite when I feel necessary. But I despise pedantic writing, and will be making many of my observations from an ‘as-I-see-it’ view. This is because (1) I have seen complete bullshit propped up with many citations and arguments to look authoritative, and (2) I’d like to hear your feedback about my take on ideas, not Aaron’s-rehash-of-Bob’s-book-of-so-and-so’s-thoughts.