After dropping out twelve years ago, Mark Zuckerberg made his triumphant return to Harvard last month to receive an honorary degree. While there, he delivered the commencement address to the latest crop of overachieving graduates. After a few good-natured reminiscences, he flirted with gloom by repeating the now familiar 21st century truism:
"Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation."
Zuckerberg made some clearer allusions to the sectors of the economy most likely to see growth. And, seeing as he's one of the main architects -- along with his pals at Amazon and Google -- of the productive and efficient new world we're all willingly signing up for, we thought it would be a good idea to examine where he, the world's 5th richest human, thinks you're most likely to find a job.
Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on stage during the annual Facebook F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 18, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)
1. The elephant in the room
So let's get this one out of the way first: IT.
IT. IT. IT. And then more IT. The world that Zuckerberg et al. have been making for us is one where IT is built on IT. Nothing will be able to function without IT. Don't even bother imagining an alternative. It's over. You're in the matrix.
We've said it before and we're definitely going to say it again: LEARN TO CODE.
2. "How about stopping climate change before we destroy the planet?"
The rallying cry of "climate change," and the job-creating promise of "green technology" was at the top of Zuckerberg's list of employment opportunities for future humanoids. Aligning himself with the IMF, the OECD, and the EU -- among other powerful acronymic global organizations -- Zuckerberg celebrated "the greening of the economy" and echoed the 21st century's Ubermensch, Elon Musk, by adding, "How about... getting millions of people involved manufacturing and installing solar panels?"
When the price of oil finally begins to rise, you can expect to hear this message grow even louder. Time to get working on those grant applications!
3. "How about curing all diseases and asking volunteers to track their health data and share their genomes?"
If there's anybody who knows about getting people to voluntarily provide endless amounts of data, it's Zuckerberg. And with the possibilities for ever more advanced investigations into DNA sequencing, the opportunities in Biotechnology are guaranteed to grow. Thanks to advances in computational capability -- and with quantum computers moving into the realm of reality -- Biotech and Big Data are already practically inextricable. According to Martin Leach, chief information officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, "Collectively, we have a 'lot' of data. This includes large datasets from a number of research platforms that are typically [more than] 10 terabytes and ranging to several petabytes."
According to Wikipedia, 1 PB = 1000000000000000B = 1015 bytes = 1000 terabytes. Like the man said, that's a lot of data.
4. "We need affordable child care and health care that aren't tied to one company."
Many western countries have been heavily encouraged to back campaigns that make it easier for women to enter (or re-enter) the workforce, as evidenced in IMF and OECD policy recommendation papers. And that means that, sooner or later, child care spending is going to increase. The federal Liberals have promised to spend $7 billion on affordable child care over the next ten years, while their provincial counterparts are increasingly funding new child care spaces.
People who are good at learning -- and even better at communicating that learning to others -- will be sitting pretty in the so-called "knowledge economy."
And with regard to health care, we Canadians are lucky to have (so far) avoided being co-opted into a privatized system, like the one Zuckerberg alludes to. Still, health care funding remains a perennial topic of debate. The federal Liberals have promised more pragmatic fiscal policy commitments, especially when it comes to increasing the availability of home care for our aging population. Recent health care agreements with the provinces make it possible for the federal government to begin the targeted spending of $6 billion over ten years for home care, which will translate into a much greater demand for caregiver support workers.
5. "And as technology keeps changing, we need to focus more on continuous education throughout our lives."
Zuckerberg has big plans for "personalized education," which, according to quartz.com, will involve "distributing free online software for customizing classroom instruction," the aim of which "is to have teachers serve as mentors and evaluators, not instructors."
While we anxiously await the prospect of our further assimilation into the Zuckerberg Universe, the colonization of young and fertile minds will continue to require actual, corporeal instructors. People who are good at learning -- and even better at communicating that learning to others -- will be sitting pretty in the so-called "knowledge economy." The basic equation is this: the smarter you are, the more money you're going to make.
And that's really all you need to know. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.
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