Academic Job Looks Promising

The recent article, “Tech Leaps, Job Losses and Rising Inequality” on the New York Times by Eduardo Porter talks about how growing technology is contributing to widening of income inequality in the U.S. As implementing cheaper technologies to industries, low skilled workers are replaced by these new machines. The article points out how certain medical conditions are tried to be diagnosed by technology. One example given is how researchers at Microsoft Research are developing a system that can predict with accuracy a probability of a pregnant woman’s suffering postpartum depression by looking at her tweets on Twitter. Science has made almost impossible things possible in the last century. If technology gets developed at the same rate as it has been for last decades, we could see today’s impossible ideas to come in our hands.

So, if technology is going to grow as it has been and if new technologies are going to replace workers whose job can be done by the new machines, what human beings are left to do?

The answer is simply that those jobs which are hard for robots to perform will be the jobs that humans will be competing for. The main function of these jobs include interpersonal communication, in which today’s technology hasn’t been developed to the extent to compete with humans. The jobs that require this characteristics include teachers and professors, variety of advising jobs, and motivational speakers!  Because, as of today, the technology hasn’t reached to the point where we can substitute another human with a machine to communicate our feelings. Even though we are experiencing growth of online schools and free Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) offered by such as edX, Coursera and Khan Academy, human to human communication which these online education technologies lack is why teachers and professors will not have to worry about their jobs as for now. Even though we can get same amount and quality of education by taking online classes or MOOC, these courses can’t offer a type of relationship we can have with our professors in college. Professors not only teach the content of the course, but they motivate students to achieve more (Remember, most of us are going to make at least $2 million in our life time according to Professor Kimball). In other words, robots haven’t been programmed to motivate us emotionally.

Another reason that demand for academic jobs will be greater in the future is that as technology replaces jobs that require low skills or skills that can be programmed in a machine, people will be looking for to get skills that machines cannot possess. Most of these skills require higher education as how advising job requires to deep knowledge about the topic from the adviser. Therefore, demand for higher education will surge in the awakening of greater technology. Presumably so, then teachers and professors will be demanded in higher numbers.

Academic job will be demanded in greater number in the future because of its inherent function of interpersonal communication and demand for higher education.

16 thoughts on “Academic Job Looks Promising

  1. josimon

    While there will still be many jobs that robots cannot take over, I still believe academic jobs may be taken over, to an extent. With more efficient and intuitive technology, developers are finding it easier to teach through computers and software. If anything, I believe that jobs in the writing and psychology fields will be a major asset in the future as well.

  2. davus@umich.edu'davus

    I think academic jobs could be victims of technology as well. With online classes, less professors serve more students, assuming that such roles would even be filled by what we would consider a professor. Having said that, I think we are a long way off from technology being able to innovate original solutions to problems, especially outside of tech. Because of this I think there will always be academic jobs. Perhaps the best indication of who should pursue grad school in the future will be If you are actually paying for it, you shouldn’t be there.

  3. gaochen

    This is an interesting post. As technology develops, many jobs could be replaced with machine. However, sometimes the cost is too high to use machine to complete substitute human beings. In the long-term we might see a increasing demand for academic jobs.

  4. cjamesj

    I think that the overtake of technology replacing many jobs may be overstated. Many service jobs require a client facing aspect, something that machines will not be able to replace.

  5. wyna

    According to many consulting firms’ economic outlook reports, there is a consensus that number of jobs will decrease at a noticeable amount in the next 20 years. I think academic jobs will be a definite victim of this trend.

  6. sekoch

    I think you are on the right track, but it is the analysis that robots cannot do. In terms of academics, I think it is more important to develop analytic thinkers and communicators. Classes can potentially be taught online in the future and would require drastically fewer professors if this becomes the case (for instance, one teacher at U of M teaching Econ 101 rather than 3). However, the valuable research being done at the university can’t be replaced by robots.

  7. schultka

    I definitely think that growing technology has been a huge issue in replacing many low-skilled workers’ jobs, thus leading to more unemployment among the middle class. I’m not so sure if academic jobs will be of higher demand in the future however. If anything, I think it will come to a point where more and more online courses start to replace professors. On the other hand, I think that jobs such as psychologists will be the ones that humans are competing for, considering you can’t get mental and emotional support from a robot.

  8. alexfigu@umich.edu'alexfigu

    I can see the demand for academic jobs potentially decreasing in the future as technology makes remote education more wide spread. Rather than having 1 teacher for a class of 20, with video streaming and online learning 1 teacher can teach thousands of students. This adoption could lead to widespread layoffs for teachers.

  9. fanglue

    It is quite debatable whether we need to to go college. College education cannot guaranteed every graduate a job, however, you may need the diploma to open the door the one’s long-term career goal. As the technology develops, we may see many workers are replaced by the machines but those who aren’t will have new skills that is needed by their employers. Therefore, people should have new skills as technology develops.

  10. mdbold

    It’s always interesting to see how technology affects development. Economists usually think of technology as enhancing human worker productivity, but there is probably more to the story.

  11. haozhao

    Very interesting. Technology may takes our jobs year by year, but in return, people can use those technologies to create more and more new jobs and open some new industries.

  12. xcharles

    Great post. I think a corollary that goes along with higher demand for teachers is that education in general will also improve. Since there will be more people competing for teaching spots, only the brightest will be chosen. This will have a great effect on younger generations. It will lead us to a world of very intelligent individuals.

  13. umbrown@umich.edu'umbrown

    Interesting post. While I agree that there are many jobs that can’t be done without humans as they are today, I think that many jobs will change to accommodate technology, even at the cost of face to face human interaction. Online courses are pretty popular at some colleges, and there are classes here at Michigan that you can do very well in without setting foot in the class with services like LectureTools and others where the entire lecture can be posted online.

  14. ajsanna

    This post reminds me of reading “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, which talks about the impact that globalization and technology could have on our economy and society. He stressed that going into “idea” based careers was the best way to ensure you had a long-term job that would get unseated. Academia seems to be like the most “idea” driven path I can think of.

  15. jyyoo

    Interesting post! I personally think it is natural to see number of jobs decreasing in a long-term, as productivity increases due to technological development. But some jobs will never be replaced by machines; jobs in academia, is an example.

  16. agolicz

    While I think that academic jobs are not likely to disappear entirely, I do think that they may change dramatically. As many other students have pointed out, the rise of MOOCs and online courseware will make it easier for professors scale their lessons to thousands of students, not just however many can fit into a lecture hall. Furthermore, they can save their lectures from one year and make adjustments and updates periodically over their career to enhance student comprehension and address any new advances. This should free up the schedules of many professors, hopefully for more 1-on-1 time with students enrolled in their university, and also for the professor’s own research goals.

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