Careers

Creative careers may be the most future-proofed, says one of Bill Gates' favorite authors

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Creative types have long endured an uncertain future when it comes to career stability and salary prospects. But in a new age of automation and job disruption, all that could be set to change.

That’s according to Yuval Harari, the Israeli historian whose study of societal trends has won him esteemed fans, from Barack Obama to Bill Gates.

Speaking to CNBC, Harari weighed in on the future of the workforce debate, saying he was certain that new technologies would lead to job losses in the near-term. He predicted, however, that careers with a creative aspect would be least likely to be affected by cuts or imitation by robots — for now, at least.

“It is quite certain that a lot jobs will disappear, especially the more monotonous or repetitive ones,” Harari told CNBC’s Martin Soong earlier this month at DBS’ Asian Insights Conference 2018.

“Jobs that require a higher degree of creativity will be safer — at least in the short term,” he said.

Israeli historian and writer Yuval Noah Harari makes a lecture of artificial intelligence during the X World Future Evolution on July 6, 2017 in Beijing, China.
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Israeli historian and writer Yuval Noah Harari makes a lecture of artificial intelligence during the X World Future Evolution on July 6, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Harari's 25-year study of humankind has produced two bestselling books, both of which have appeared on Bill Gates' summer reading lists. His debut, “Sapiens,” centers on the history of mankind, while its sequel, “Homo Deus,” explores the outlook for humanity in the future.

Drawing on his research, he said there is "nothing inherently wrong" in doing away with repetitive, boring and disruptive jobs. Indeed, he said he was in favor of it, adding that new, more meaningful jobs could be created in their place. But he warned against the emergence of a "useless class" — those left redundant from job losses — and called on individuals and institutions to do more to ensure people are able to up-skill and take on new roles.

“What we need to really protect is not the jobs, it’s the humans," said Harari. "I think the big danger of the appearance of a useless class is not because of the absolute loss of jobs, it’s because of the difficulty in retraining and reinventing yourself."

"How do you reinvent yourself at age 50? It’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult: it demands a lot from you and also from the government, which will have to support you and retrain you."

Analysts agree that technical advances in the space of automation, AI and robots are likely to lead to job losses in the coming years. Yet, there remain huge uncertainties in the extent of that disruption.

For instance, consultancy firm McKinsey estimates that global job losses could by anywhere from 400 million to 800 million by 2030. Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development puts the number at closer to 14 percent of jobs in developed economies.

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