Technology is never going to stop. Technology is going to continue to make human jobs obsolete.
Now we can say of course technology would displace human jobs on an assembly line. Thank goodness that so many difficult and dangerous manual labor jobs have been taken over by automation. No longer do we shovel coal into train engines, dump raw materials into steal furnaces or have to breath harmful fumes while molding car parts. These jobs have all been automated but at the time, even though some of these were dangerous jobs, or boring jobs, or low paid jobs, they were jobs and the loss of them hurt.
Today companies, in every industry, are experimenting with how to eliminate the expensive cost of a workforce. In Canada McDonald’s customers place their orders on touch screens, here in the US customers scan groceries and pack their own bags, and unless it’s legislated in your state you pump your own gas.
Technology is changing the way we buy and sell and this profoundly impacts jobs like travel agents, auto sales people and realtors.
Think your job is safe? Is any job safe when experts predict that medical diagnosis will be less fallible with computers, surgery safer with robots and accuracy improved with automated pharmacies? Algorithms are replacing financial advisors, databases are replacing paralegals, ATMs will continue to replace tellers.
This puts associations in a really tricky place. What do you do when you can see the jobs you represent eventually becoming displaced in the future? What do you do when your members are counting on you to keep them employed in the job they trained for?
We’ve now seen countless industries try to fight the change and fail. When safety is a key benefit, it is hard to argue against the change if society is safer having machines do the job. Depending on the job we could argue that people do not want to do that job anyway, there are better more fulfilling jobs for us to do.
Still, where does that leave us. If we lead an association in a profession or industry where the jobs are being displaced by technology do we just slowly constrict as our member base gets smaller? Do we jump in and get involved in the policies, legislation and testing needed to make the transition? Do we open up the scope of our mission to include the new jobs created by the technology displacing the current jobs we represent?
I’m honestly not sure of the right answer for any association. But it might be a good idea to have this conversation soon. It appears the future is coming faster than we think.