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3 life skills that are becoming obsolete
The world's always been changing, but it feels like it's never changed so quickly as it does now. What life skills will that render obsolete?
- Experts estimate that a full 47% of today's jobs may be replaced by automation and AI.
- As those jobs disappear, so too will the important skills associated with them.
- This list describes the top three life skills that will either disappear in the future or change so profoundly that we may no longer recognize them.
In an analysis of 702 occupations, researchers from Oxford University came to a distressing conclusion. A full 47 percent of all occupations in the US are likely to become automated, and that's only over the next few decades.
It's anxiety inducing, but it's also inevitable. It's not reasonable to be a Luddite in the face of such an overwhelming potential for human benefit — sure, the transition will be rough, but as automation transforms the nature of work, humanity stands to gain significant productivity and free time. Unfortunately, many of the life skills that we've worked hard to acquire in order to succeed and perform the jobs of today may not be relevant tomorrow. Here are the top 3 life skills that the changing world is making obsolete.
Recently, Lyft announced that its fleet of 30 self-driving cars in Las Vegas had made their 55,000th ride, with no major incidents and a consistent 4.97 rating out of 5. As the remote sensing technology and algorithms that drive autonomous cars improve, not owning a car may become the norm. Instead, we might request a ride from a fleet of cars owned by corporations like Lyft and Uber. Commercial trucking, too, will likely be replaced by self-driving cars. Already, a number of companies are angling to become the first to dominate this new market, such as TuSimple, which is running five round trips for the US postal service as part of a two-week pilot test.
While this is an exciting transformation, it's also going to have some major impacts. Being a driver (whether that's a truck, delivery, or tractor driver) is the most common job in the US. Once self-driving cars mature, there will be no reason to pay for a driver anymore, and no reason to learn to drive. Some people will undoubtedly still drive, but it will become a skill akin to riding horses, something set aside as a hobby for individuals with a keen interest.
A Waymo self-driving car pulls into a parking lot at the Google-owned company's headquarters in Mountain View, California.
GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images
2. STEM skills
STEM skills are among the most lucrative, practical, and useful skills to acquire, so it seems far-fetched that they would become obsolete. The trouble is, STEM industries develop at an exponential rate. It has been estimated the 65 percent of children entering grade school will wind up working in professions that don't exist yet, making it difficult to train them for those industries. Fifty-four percent of Americans believe that they need to train continuously in order to keep up with their changing workplace, and nearly 50 percent of the knowledge learned during the first year of a four-year technical degree will be out of date by the time the student graduates.
So, STEM skills as a concept aren't likely to go away any time soon — rather, the specific STEM skills that you can learn today are going to rapidly become obsolete. The benefit of STEM education is the same as any type of education: the rigorous, critical thinking skills they inculcate. Specific to a STEM education, too, is the fact that if you don't learn these skills that will cease to be relevant in the future, you won't be able to keep your head above water at all.
But this, of course, doesn't fully account for the specter of automation. Most experts believe that STEM-based fields will probably grow in response to the wave of automation. Just as machines didn't replace all the jobs during the Industrial Revolution, it's unlikely that the so-called "Fourth Industrial Revolution" will totally replace all jobs as well. And it will replace those jobs with new ones, ones that will likely involve STEM skills.
The thing is, nobody really knows for sure. Some believe, for instance, that software development will become a largely automated process requiring far fewer technical skills than it does today. Coding skills are extremely lucrative today, but it's not at all clear that they'll be needed in the future. The level of talent and skill needed to enter other STEM fields, too, may diminish as automation makes things easier.
3. Financial skills
As with STEM, the nature of many financial activities makes them very attractive targets for automation. Banking, accounting, and financial forecasting are mainly just different ways of processing information, something that machines are becoming increasingly adept at. For instance, a study by PwC found that 40 percent of accounting activities can be automated, such as billing and reporting.
Financial advisors will no longer need to navigate complicated tax scenarios as well. Already, H&R Block is using IBM's Watson to assist in tax preparation. Considering the over 74,000 pages of the tax code, offloading this work to a machine makes a lot of sense. As another example, JP Morgan's Contract Intelligence — or COIN — saves the company 360,000 work hours annually by reviewing loan documents in seconds.
Technology has replaced many of the jobs that used to exist in the financial industry. In fact, technology has so thoroughly permeated this industry that some colleges are offering "fintech" courses focusing on the impact and nature of financial technology. But financial technology has mostly replaced tedious tasks that were clearly ripe for automation. More complicated tasks will always have to be left in human hands, right?
Not true. Even something as challenging and multifaceted as investing is being automated. Banks like Citigroup use AI to provide clients with investment advice. The Boston-based hedge fund Domeyard uses AI to parse through the 300 million data points that are generated by the New York Stock Exchange's first hour of trading alone. Using machine-learning techniques to gain an edge is quickly becoming the norm among traders.
These three major skill sets are likely to disappear in the future or transform so thoroughly that they will bear little resemblance to what we see today. Does that mean developing these skills today is a waste of time? Not necessarily. Although little can be said for driving skills, honing your STEM and financial skills will provide an understanding of the fundamentals behind the relevant technology. And most importantly, sharpening these skills will sharpen the skills that are truly difficult to automate as well, like creative and critical thinking. In the future, the ability to think in a uniquely human way may become the most important skill out there.
- Why the Programming Language C Is Obsolete - Big Think ›
- 47% of Jobs Will Disappear in the next 25 Years, Says Oxford ... ›
Evolution proves to be just about as ingenious as Nikola Tesla
- For the first time, scientists developed 3D scans of shark intestines to learn how they digest what they eat.
- The scans reveal an intestinal structure that looks awfully familiar — it looks like a Tesla valve.
- The structure may allow sharks to better survive long breaks between feasts.
Considering how much sharks are feared by humans, it is a bit of a surprise that scientists don't know much about the predators. For example, until recently, sharks were thought to be solitary creatures searching the seas for food on their own. Now it appears that some sharks are quite social.
Another mystery is how these prehistoric swimming and eating machines digest food. Although scientists have made 2D sketches of captured sharks' digestive systems based on dissections, there is a limit to what can be learned in this way. Professor Adam Summers at University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs says:
"Intestines are so complex, with so many overlapping layers, that dissection destroys the context and connectivity of the tissue. It would be like trying to understand what was reported in a newspaper by taking scissors to a rolled-up copy. The story just won't hang together."
Summers is co-author of a new study that has produced the first 3D scans of a shark's intestines, which turns out to have a strange, corkscrew structure. What's even more bizarre is that it resembles the amazing one-way valve designed by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1920. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
What a 3D model reveals
Video: Pacific spiny dogfish intestine youtu.be
According to the study's lead author Samantha Leigh, "It's high time that some modern technology was used to look at these really amazing spiral intestines of sharks. We developed a new method to digitally scan these tissues and now can look at the soft tissues in such great detail without having to slice into them."
"CT scanning is one of the only ways to understand the shape of shark intestines in three dimensions," adds Summers. The researchers scanned the intestines of nearly three dozen different shark species.
It is believed that sharks go for extended periods — days or even weeks — between big meals. The scans reveal that food passes slowly through the intestine, affording sharks' digestive system the time to fully extract its nutrient value. The researchers hypothesize that such a slow digestive process may also require less energy.
It could be that this slow digestion is more susceptible to back flow given that the momentum of digested food through the tract must be minimal. Perhaps that is why sharks evolved something so similar to a Tesla valve.
What is Tesla's valve doing there?
Above, a Tesla valve. Below, a shark intestine.Credit: Samantha Leigh / California State University, Domi
Tesla's "valvular conduit," or what the world now calls a "Tesla valve," is a one-way valve with no moving parts. Its brilliance is based in fluid dynamics and only now coming to be fully appreciated. Essentially, a series of teardrop-shaped loops arranged along the length of the valve allow water to flow easily in one direction but not in the other. Modern tests reveal that at low flow rates, water can travel through the valve either way, but at high flow rates, the design kicks in. According to mathematician Leif Ristroph:
"Crucially, this turn-on comes with the generation of turbulent flows in the reverse direction, which 'plug' the pipe with vortices and disrupting currents. Moreover, the turbulence appears at far lower flow rates than have ever previously been observed for pipes of more standard shapes — up to 20 times lower speed than conventional turbulence in a cylindrical pipe or tube. This shows the power it has to control flows, which could be used in many applications."
A deeper dive
Summers suggests the scans are just the beginning. "The vast majority of shark species, and the majority of their physiology, are completely unknown," says Summers, adding that "every single natural history observation, internal visualization, and anatomical investigation shows us things we could not have guessed at."
To this end, the researchers plan to use 3D printing to produce models through which they can observe the behavior of different substances passing through them — after all, sharks typically eat fish, invertebrates, mammals, and seagrass. They also plan to explore with engineers ways in which the shark intestine design could be used industrially, perhaps for the treatment of wastewater or for filtering microplastics.
It could fairly be said, though, that Nikola Tesla was 100 years ahead of them.
The non-contact technique could someday be used to lift much heavier objects — maybe even humans.
- Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound waves to move matter through a technique called acoustic trapping.
- Acoustic trapping devices move bits of matter by emitting strategically designed sound waves, which interact in such a way that the matter becomes "trapped" in areas of particular velocity and pressure.
- Acoustic and optical trapping devices are already used in various fields, including medicine, nanotechnology, and biological research.
Sound can have powerful effects on matter. After all, sound strikes our world in waves — vibrations of air molecules that bounce off of, get absorbed by, or pass through matter around us. Sound waves from a trained opera singer can shatter a wine glass. From a jet, they can collapse a stone wall. But sound can also be harnessed for delicate interactions with matter.
Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound to move matter through a phenomenon called acoustic trapping. The method is based on the fact that sound waves produce an acoustic radiation force.
"When an acoustic wave interacts with a particle, it exerts both an oscillatory force and a much smaller steady-state 'radiation' force," wrote the American Physical Society. "This latter force is the one used for trapping and manipulation. Radiation forces are generated by the scattering of a traveling sound wave, or by energy gradients within the sound field."
When tiny particles encounter this radiation, they tend to be drawn toward regions of certain pressure and velocity within the sound field. Researchers can exploit this tendency by engineering sound waves that "trap" — or suspend — tiny particles in the air. Devices that do this are often called "acoustic tweezers."
Building a better tweezer
A study recently published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics describes how researchers created a new type of acoustic tweezer that was able to lift a small polystyrene ball into the air.
Tweezers of Sound: Acoustic Manipulation off a Reflective Surface youtu.be
It is not the first example of a successful "acoustic tweezer" device, but the new method is likely the first to overcome a common problem in acoustic trapping: sound waves bouncing off reflective surfaces, which disrupts acoustic traps.
To minimize the problems of reflectivity, the team behind the recent study configured ultrasonic transducers such that the sound waves that they produce overlap in a strategic way that is able to lift a small bit of polystyrene from a reflective surface. By changing how the transducers emit sound waves, the team can move the acoustic trap through space, which moves the bit of matter.
Move, but don't touch
So far, the device is only able to move millimeter-sized pieces of matter with varying degrees of success. "When we move a particle, it sometimes scatters away," the team noted. Still, improved acoustic trapping and other no-contact lifting technologies — like optical tweezers, commonly used in medicine — could prove useful in many future applications, including cell separation, nanotechnologies, and biological research.
Could future acoustic-trapping devices lift large and heavy objects, maybe even humans? It seems possible. In 2018, researchers from the University of Bristol managed to acoustically trap particles whose diameters were larger than the sound wavelength, which was a breakthrough because it surpassed "the classical Rayleigh scattering limit that has previously restricted stable acoustic particle trapping," the researchers wrote in their study.
In other words, the technique — which involved suspending matter in tornado-like acoustic traps — showed that it is possible to scale up acoustic trapping.
"Acoustic tractor beams have huge potential in many applications," Bruce Drinkwater, co-author of the 2018 study, said in a statement. "I'm particularly excited by the idea of contactless production lines where delicate objects are assembled without touching them."
Australian parrots have worked out how to open trash bins, and the trick is spreading across Sydney.
Dumpster-diving trash parrots
In a study about these smart birds just published in Science, researchers define animal culture as "population-specific behaviors acquired via social learning from knowledgeable individuals."
Co-lead author of the study Barbara Klump of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany says, "[C]ompared to humans, there are few known examples of animals learning from each other. Demonstrating that food scavenging behavior is not due to genetics is a challenge."
An opportunity presented itself in a video that co-author Richard Major of the Australian Museum shared with Klump and the other co-authors. In the video, a sulphur-crested cockatoo used its beak to pull up the handle of a closed garbage bin — using its foot as a wedge — and then walked back the lid sufficiently to flip it open, exposing the bin's edible contents.
Major has been studying Cacatua galerita for 20 years and says, "Like many Australian birds, sulphur-crested cockatoos are loud and aggressive." The study describes them as a "large-brained, long-lived, and highly social parrot." Says Major, "They are also incredibly smart, persistent, and have adapted brilliantly to living with humans."(Research regarding some of the ways in which wild animals adapt to the presence of humans has already produced some fascinating results and is ongoing.)
Clever cockie opens bin - 01 youtu.be
The researchers became curious about how widespread this behavior might be and saw a research opportunity. After all, says John Martin, a researcher at Taronga Conservation Society, "Australian garbage bins have a uniform design across the country, and sulphur-crested cockatoos are common across the entire east coast."
Martin continues, "In 2018, we launched an online survey in various areas across Sydney and Australia with questions such as, 'What area are you from, have you seen this behavior before, and if so, when?'"
Word Gets Around
Credit: magspace/Adobe Stock
Although the cockatoos' maneuver was reported in only three suburbs before 2018, by the end of 2019, people in 44 areas reported observing the behavior. Clearly, more and more cockatoos were learning how to successfully dumpster dive.
As further proof, says Klump, "We observed that the birds do not open the garbage bins in the same way, but rather used different opening techniques in different suburbs, suggesting that the behavior is learned by observing others." One individual bird in north Sydney invented its own method, and the scientists saw it grow in popularity throughout the local population.
To track individual birds, the researchers marked 500 cockatoos with small red dots. Subsequent observations revealed that not all cockatoos are bin-openers. Only about 10 percent of them are, and they are mostly males. The other cockatoos apparently restrict their education to a different lesson: hang around with a bin-opener, and you will get supper.
Thanks to the surveys, the researchers consider the entire project to be a valuable citizen-science experiment. "By studying this behavior with the help of local residents, we are uncovering the unique and complex cultures of their neighborhood birds."
The few seconds of nuclear explosion opening shots in Godzilla alone required more than 6.5 times the entire budget of the monster movie they ended up in.