To those in America in their late teens or early 20s. To those graduating high school. To those in college. To those considering a career. I have one simple, plain thing to say………….
Learn to be a plumber. Or an electrician. Or a carpenter. Learn a trade. Dial the clock back to the 1950s when being a tradesman of some kind was an honorable, solidly middle-class profession with which you could support a family. You could be proud at the end of the day of what you did and whom you helped.
Why would I say such a thing? Why would I, who has made his living with computers since the age of 14, suggest the equivalent of going to trade school and becoming an apprentice? Maybe it’s the contrarian in me. But it’s also because I believe it.
My view is that the millions of kids getting Computer Science degrees in colleges are, except for the top 1% of them, absolute suckers. They are going to find themselves virtually indistinguishable from the zillions of other CS engineers, and they’re going to be in jobs doing work that they find neither inspiring nor rewarding.
Worse yet, they’re going to get squeezed out of work by two forces:
- The natural law that, once you’re age 30, you’re already a relic in the CS biz, and
- Artificial intelligence
There has been a confluence of notions in recent decades that have convinced kids (and/or their parents) that computers are the way to go. Between the legends of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and the Google Guys, everyone thinks they’re going to be the next………….whomever. They’re wrong, though. That isn’t going to happen. I say again, unless you are in the highest echelon, you are in for disappointment.
Those who can actually do things with their hands that require knowledge are going to absolutely be able to write their own ticket. They will find high-paying jobs wherever they go. They can pick up stakes and find strong markets wherever they like. And there ain’t no AI gonna push an electrician or a plumber out of a job. Promise.
Personally, my skills are very limited (but very slowly expanding over the course of my life) and I never hesitate to spend (substantial) cash on jobs that I need done in or around my house. I have no choice in the matter. I’ve got a chap coming over to fix my carpet. It’ll probably take him 30 minutes to do it. He’s going to charge me $400. And I’ll pay it, because he has the skills I need.
With computer folks, however, I have the entire world I can browse in order to get the best person at the best price. Hell, I can find you skilled computer engineers for $8 per hour if you need them. But I can’t pay a guy in Bangalore $8 per hour to install an overhead light fixture in my son’s bedroom.
So there you have it. And I’m honestly serious about this. I think good, old-fashioned skilled labor is going to absolutely thrive, and it’s going to take many years before it slowly dawns on people that, instead of being employee number 203,839 at Google doing some shit maintenance work, they should have learned what it takes to create the frame for a new house or how to maintain a generator so it works reliably.