Choose careers with eye on new tech disruptions

Office workers walking along Shenton Way.
Office workers walking along Shenton Way.PHOTO: ST FILE

We live in a digital age where what we learn will quickly be obsolete.

The World Economic Forum, in a recent study, predicted that five million jobs would be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers.

Hence, Miss Tey Siew Min was right to say that students should be taught how to learn new skills, regardless of new technological changes they will face ("Unchanging education system greatest threat to job prospects"; last Friday).

Professor David Deming of Harvard University argues that soft skills like sharing and negotiating will be crucial in future jobs, as many jobs requiring only mathematical skills have been automated.

Thus, bank tellers and statistical clerks will be the first to be axed.

Cashier and sales jobs are vulnerable, with the rising popularity of online shopping and self-checkout counters.

With the proliferation of e-mail and smartphones, the demand for postal service jobs will decline. Deliveries might soon be carried out by drones.

Even newspaper deliveries are on the decline, due to the Internet. With the growth of smartphones and e-readers, the entire newspaper production and distribution set-up is being turned on its head.

Driverless cars will one day replace taxi drivers.

The demand for teachers and professors will slowly decline as free online learning revolutionises teaching models.

Interpreters and translators may be able to keep their jobs for some time, as online translations and language apps, while helpful, are awkward in practice.

Recreational therapists, health counsellors and primary school teachers also may be safe for the foreseeable future.

Our young should be more discerning in their choice of jobs and careers. What they need are cognitive and creative skills that can give them an edge over machines.

Heng Cho Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Choose careers with eye on new tech disruptions'. Print Edition | Subscribe