It struck me this morning after waking-up just how much happened in the 20th century. How much society, knowledge and even various influences that shape our world dramatically changed. Looking back, here is just a short list off the top of my head about what happened in the 20th century of which I only participated a quarter of my life in.
- modern medicine was developed… the practice of bleeding out diseases left our collective consciousness
- microprocessor which I couldn’t imagine life without… just about everything has them from computers to razors!
- internet allowing you instant access to ALL the world’s knowledge within a few keystrokes
- discovery of genetics and very recently, the study of epigenetics (fascinating stuff!)
- astronomy has now mapped most of the known universe, we now know where we are not only in the Milkyway but also in this exponentially expanding space!
- electricity became mainstream, allowing us to live a 24/7 lifestyle with relative ease
- air travel replaced boats as the main form of global transportation
- globalization, internationalization, multiculturalism… we are now truly ONE people with artificial borders slowly fading away!
- …. and so on!
Wow… now what does this mean?
First, it means that the generalists of the 20th century will no longer be able to find employment in the 21st century… you are seeing this globally. For instance, if you use to work in a car factory in the USA… you were a generalists, adding part A to part B and getting a few greenbacks every few weeks. Why is this gone? Because this kind of work has fallen into the “there is always somebody willing to do it cheaper than you” category. Mainly the third world has replaced much of the labor constraints that use to exist in the “modern” world. If you are specialized in one aspect of automotive manufacturing, you have a job to this day, and will continue to have one… but if you just had the same knowledge as your colleagues, well, you have been – if you haven’t already – replaced by somebody who can do it faster/cheaper/better.
Second, thanks to the internet, there are no longer any gatekeepers holding knowledge from you to keep themselves important (or in a job). I’m looking at teachers, professors and other types of academic teaching institutions… including universities, colleges and even schools! When I was a kid, a teacher (both my parents were teachers) was a guaranteed job for life, there are always new kids being made and they need to be taught! NO MORE! Today, most teachers are UNDER CONTRACT… meaning every year or every few years, they need to apply again for their job. Teaching has become a commodity. You can teach science? Great… so what? 10 other people can do this too… thanks to the internet and globalization, this number now will be in the millions. Teaching knowledge, unless incredibly specialized, is a dead-end. UNLESS you have a class of thousands to teach (HowToChinese.com is a prime example, I prepare one class but taught thousands of students already!) When I have children, they will go to school… mostly for the social interactions with their piers, but I will of course teach them far more in a home setting using video and other media.
Third, economics of mass distribution will start to kick in. For example, more and more teachers will become facilitators than actual lecturers and teachers as media (like YouTube videos) can do a more efficient job at teaching than any one person can. Businesses will rely on a remote global workforce and contract workers to stay in business thanks to distributed manufacturing and on-demand supply/consumption models. Put another way, those huge factories that use to employ thousands of people to build chairs are GONE. Replaced instead with manufacturing hubs around the world, maybe even in the stores themselves, making a product when a customer wants it. Shipping things globally, made out of plastic or wood… no longer needs to happen. Instead, if I want a chair, I can order it from my laptop and get it made and shipped to me from a local manufacturer.
The 20th century was about “control of knowledge” in which generalists worked for specialists for the bosses or governments good. This model is old and as we see globally, slowly dying away… being replaced with extreme specialists.