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The future of Jobs – The change we have seen

If you were to show around a person coming from the early 1900, that has been sleeping for a hundred year, you can understand he will be quite surprised to see how the world has changed. 
He would find plenty of cars and airplanes (he probably saw none at his time, he was just told that such things existed), telephones in the hand of people and computers, the Internet. He will also be quite surprised at what he will no longer find: people working in the fields. And yet, something magic should be going on, seeing all the groceries in shops… 
200 years ago 90% of US population lived on farm and produced their own food. In 1940 one farmer was able to produce food for 19 people. In 2010 a farmer could produce food for 155 people. In 1910 over 35% of the people in the US worked in farming, 100 years later the percentage shrunk to 2%.
Agriculture is probably the area that has seen most changes in the last hundred years. Just forty years ago in China, Cambodia and Vietnam, to name places I experienced first hand, the world seemed to me so different as what it would seem the world to this person coming from the past. Agriculture still dominated those societies.
But it is not just agriculture. Take a look at the graph showing how much jobs changed in the last hundred years.
The pace of evolution in these last fifty years has been exponential in the area of electronics and that area has become more and more pervasive leading to an exponential evolution also in other sectors. If you consider the Moore’s law and its claim (verified and sustained in the last 50 years) of a doubling of transistors every 18 months (which loosely correspond to doubling in perceived functionality every 10 years – that is because our perception is logarithmic) it means that in the next 18 months we will add the same number of transistor on a chip as we have added in the last 50 years, or, from a perception point of view that in the coming 8 years we will experience the same amount of changes we experienced in the last 50 years.
50 years ago there was for no job for MRI technicians, no job web programmers, no job for gene sequencing, no job for data analyst. Actually some of these jobs just arose in the last 20, 10 and even 5 years.
Evolution will keep going on, that is a given. Hence, we can expect similar changes in jobs as we have seen in the past, but they will be happening faster.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, co-chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until Aprile 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.