During a recent session of Crooked Media's Pod Save America, California Democratic senator Kamala Harris turned to the latest installment in the X-Men saga, Logan, to make some points with regards to the current and future of the job market in America. Harris is the second African American woman to be elected to the senate and is hip on the latest superhero films.
As the topic of the conversation came around to jobs, she invoked some of the scenes and imagery from the film to highlight her points:
If you look closely, you'll notice that there are a bunch of trucks on the freeway and none of them have a regular cab. It takes place in 2029, and so it's just that, Driverless cars. That is truth.
It's going to happen and there are people who've had jobs for generations around driving a car or truck that in some relatively short period of time won't have those jobs anymore. What we have to do in terms of the economic message is to one, speak the truth, and then two, have a plan for transitioning them into jobs that will still be there (or will have been created).
Now the near term may also be remote-controlled fleets of vehicles as fully automated cars mature into a fully realized reality (remember, all states still require a human driver to be ready to take controls at any time). However over the next decade or two, it's no stretch to imagine those kinds of transportation jobs will fall by the wayside or at least diminish to the levels that only isolated handfuls will still exist.
Other jobs that have been recently identified by the labor market, Forbes, and others as ones that will see diminishing numbers of include:
- Typists – Between the various forms of speech to text software and the use of tablets the need for hiring individuals to transpose handwritten notes to typed versions has been rapidly dropping off.
- Postal Workers – Really, when was the last time you sent a letter. As advertisers continue to move from mailed content to digital targeting, and online bill-pay also continues to climb, the main things we get is our Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay shipments. The remaining mail sorting continues to become increasingly automated and the numbers of people needed to keep it flowing is diminishing.
- Travel Agents – Where hotels, flights, and vacations used to be booked through your friendly neighborhood travel agent, now it's all Orbitz, Priceline, and direct to carrier online orders.
- Retail Cashiers – Those few automated self-service checkouts are just the beginning. Amazon is still working on their Amazon Go grocery store up in Seattle. It has no checkout lines and under ten employees in total. They're still working out the bugs, but if it pans out the rest of the grocery store industry is eager to adapt their learnings.
- Meter Readers – Many meters have already been swapped out from needing a human to read them to being able to "phone home" each month (and in some cases they're always connected). They're not in all areas, but they're getting there. As municipal-wide wireless networks also continue to evolve that will only speed up the adoption.