The Three Laws of Future Employment

Writing at New Geography Daniel Jelski offers a critique of (some of) Launching the Innovation Renaissance. We are in basic agreement about the laws of future employment:

Law #1: People will get jobs doing things that computers can’t do. Law #2: A global market place will result in lower pay and fewer opportunities for many careers. (But also in cheaper and better products and a higher standard of living for American consumers.) Law #3: Professional people will more likely be freelancers and less likely to have a steady job.

[But]…Laws #1 & 2 predict that there will likely be fewer STEM jobs in the future – they are both easily computerized and tradable. People will always be employed in STEM disciplines, many of them highly paid, but they’ll be paid for smarts rather than education. The disciplines will be much more competitive, with older and less talented workers left on the sidelines. Tom Friedman and Alex Tabarrok, reflecting conventional wisdom,  are mistaken in maintaining that increasing STEM education is a key to future economic competitiveness.

Jelski instead recommends English lit and psychology, at least if you are young and hot!  The logic–computers don’t write well and people don’t want to have sex with or be counseled by computers (yet!),–seems strong but wage rates and unemployment levels don’t support the argument. Jelski is correct about demand but forgets to take into account supply. Thus, the way to go is to be a hot engineer who can write well and get along with other people. (Jelski also forgets that my argument for STEM was in large part about the spillover effects).

I am in strong agreement with Jelski, however, that education is only the first step to success. Education is a tool; to truly succeed one must have skills developed with grit and applied with passion.


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