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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 ... ›
Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
The first rule of Vulture Club: stay out of Portugal.
So you're a vulture, riding the thermals that rise up over Iberia. Your way of life is ancient, ruled by needs and instincts that are way older than the human civilization that has overtaken the peninsula below, and the entire planet.
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Contrary to what some might think, the brain is a very plastic organ.
As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active.