Today’s Professions are Tomorrow’s Hobbies and DIY Tasks

The demands for particular professions come and go. The people ordained into the priesthood of some professions like to think that his or her service as a scarce good even in the face of the DIY ethic, sometimes aided by technology. And increasingly, the costs of practicing some professions can become so low that parts of the professions can become hobbies.

We look back through history and see that humans strives to breaks technological and social barriers through innovation. Even today, we can see: those who know can take advantage of those that don’t know. Professions such as sorcery and alchemy were displaced by the scientific peer review. Today, some professions slowing fading away or undergoing radical change: PR, travel agents, real estate agents, legal aids. We are deciding to do more things by ourselves because the cost/convenience ratio meets a sweet spot.

Many would argue that changes like this are bad because they breaks tradition. Breaking tradition is part of how we define historical events. Town scribes, a profession, that like many other obsolete occupations, once had the aura of a sacred priesthood, gave way to mass adoption of literacy. A person had to be given the right practice it, and the commoner would be a fool to try by himself or herself. Later, women would be allowed to do things such as vote, and former slaves could own property. The right to compute freely had to be fought in the workplace against czars know as “system administrators.” People were fired for sneaking computers into their offices. People are using Zillow to help themselves in the real estate process, using software wizards with lawyers to help legal matters, or using WebMD to get a second opinion, mowing our own lawn, user generated content in the form of blogging/journalism, video production, and music production. People are using Google for research, and using e-mail instead of smoke signals. These are all in the same spirit. The human spirit’s desire to do more for less is a force of nature and economics that cannot be stopped. To argue that actions to end tradition is some sort of threat is to argue against the nature of evolution itself (and some do).

Will knowledge help make the world a better place? What is more important: ending ignorance to improve life or keeping the tradition of bad ideas just because they are old?

The Internet is as revolutionary as the Gutenberg’s printing press. It helps the spread of knowledge, which helps society progresses. And now, anyone with an Internet connection can contribute to that pool of knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom themselves can evolve further. Any profession will become less valuable over time (even over one’s lifetime), and each person must constantly strive to learn new things, to and reinvent themselves to survive (as shown by Darwin). The human spirit demands that we get to decide what we want to do, and to do it if we can. We want to outsource some things, and do other things ourselves with the aid of social or technological innovations. When you jokingly call someone a dinosaur, do not do it because they are old, but because of their inability to adapt to a changing world.

Andrew Keen published (on the Internet of all places) a ChangeThis Manifesto to coincide with his new book (that not even worth a mention). I was eager to read this new manifesto because I thought it might have a insight that I had not heard from Keen in all of his other articles and interviews. However, I could not find a strong argument that “killing culture” is a bad thing. Keen is just whining that he is past his prime, can no longer keep up with the accelerating pace of change in the world, and he wrote a book to complain about it.

Killing culture is a euphemism for social and technological progress through innovation.

A list of the tragic killing of cultures:
The written word killed the culture of illiteracy (but not the story teller).
The wheel killed the culture of the inconveniences of travel (but not long lines at the airport).
Knowledge killed the culture of ignorance (but not in 3rd world).
Man’s discovery of fire killed the culture of freezing to death and uncooked food (but not in 3rd world).

There will always be a need for new types of occupations that will evolve out of the complexity of the circumstances of the future. There is never a need to impeded progress.

Defunct Occupations:

Update 6/19/2007:
Andrew Keen was interviewed on TechNation and Dr. Moira Gunn calls Keen out at about 7:00 into the interview arguing that children have better BS detectors than adults because of the myriad of information sources and since they spend more time online “hanging out” with friends on social networking sites. It is older people who actually fall victims to believing everything they read, possibly since they grew up with traditional media as an authority. I agree; kids are a lot smarter than adults like to give them credit for.

Update 4/13/08:
I like what Kevin Kelly is saying, that anyone who’s job has been aided by a computer is accepting of new ways computers can replace themselves even further. Theses peopled have been “Turing’d,” a reference to computer scientist Alan Turing.

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