Think about the way the world is today and the jobs and skills that are in demand. Now, imagine what these will be like in the economy of the future. You might be imagining automation (robot workers!); outsourcing (in-house jobs like the IT Support guy being replaced by a 3rd party service) and globalization (even more 3rd world call centres!) You may picture most products, services, businesses and industries having much shorter lives. Even if this Brave New World is filled with awesome new products, services and jobs, you may think, “Well maybe – but it’s hard to imagine what it’s all going to be like. So I’m still frightened!”
This is not the first time in history we’ve felt this frightened about the future. The ancients actually believed that dragons, serpents and fantastic beasts existed in areas that had never been visited. In a way, they were looking at the same kind of unknown land or “terra incognita” that we face today.
The typical response to this has been to focus on defending ourselves in a version of the current economy with the imagined monsters of the future at play. This has led us to conclude that we need a higher level of skills just to stay the same. Creativity is a popular example of an important and timeless human skill used by expects like Ken Robinson. We don’t disagree with this, but it is part of a bigger picture.
We’ve spoken before about how the future is not going to be some projected version of the present, and we've demonstrated with mathematical certainty that the future economy will be much larger than the current economy – up to 7 times as large! This means that today’s economy is actually a relatively small portion of the economy of the future.
At the end of the 1700s, new tools and ways of working meant that farming had become more productive than ever. This success created a massive change in the economy. People started moving away from the farmlands and into the cities. Agriculture went from being 90% to about 10-15% of the overall economy. The largest part of the economy in this new industrial age was things that didn't exist in the agricultural age. Suddenly textiles and other factory goods could be mass-produced in factories. Train travel became the new normal.
It’s not that farming was no longer important. Food was still produced and people still needed to eat. It’s just that what was once the only way to make a living became a small part of a much greater and more complex economy – an economy filled with wild and marvellous things that had never existed before.
Next blog: so what does the future actually look like?