John Henry and the Digital Revolution

As a child when I heard the folklore of John Henry, in excitement and in suspense I listened to every word. When I heard the ending of the story, I became upset! I echoed the words of Henry, “That machine can’t beat me!” According to legend, John Henry’s prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam-powered hammer, which he won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand as his heart gave out from stress. At the time, I wasn’t aware that John Henry had been going up against the Industrial Revolution. The Luddites and many others feared the loss of jobs caused by the growing use of machines. Today, computers and artificial intelligence continue to impact the economy, causing concern that workers will be replaced my technology.

The Institute for the Future examines how the landscape of work will be reshaped. Global connectivity, smart machines, and new media are just some of the drivers reshaping human thinking concerning work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive contributors in the future. This reshaping will cause some disruptions in the economy, effecting employment. However, the report does not consider what the job market will look like in the future. What’s important is how we prepare for the future. There’s a quote that states, “You can’t control the winds, but you can adjust the sails.”

Through the 15th to 18th centuries, seafarers encountered many storms, shipwrecks and other dangers. Those that fared well had good nautical charts. A nautical chart is essential for safe navigation. It is one of the most fundamental tools available to mariners. These charts provided water depths, locations of dangers to navigation, and other features. Knowing the depths of water help mariners determine the closest underwater clearance possible for their boat. To neglect this information would result in a shipping accident. Knowing the location of dangers like rocks, reefs, wrecks and other obstructions help individuals navigate around them.

In today’s Digital Revolution, a navigational chart is important to safely navigate through sea of employment. Having such a chart helps employees perceive possible obstructions to their career, avoiding pitfalls. Researching the line of work that produces the best results for us is necessary. Employment is heading into interesting waters in this economy. The shorelines of this economy are coined as the ‘Gig Economy’ and the ‘Youeconomy.’ Both of these markets are based on the surge of freelance and contract work. My blog ‘The Times They Are a Changin‘ mentions how this was reported as the future of work.

You can create a navigational chart by taking certain career assessments. In my previous blog ‘Career Confidence‘ I mentioned how these assessments help. The Highlands Ability Battery is another excellent assessment that analyzes one’s natural abilities. The “whole person” aspect concerning what influences our decisions is a valuable tool in this report. Such assessments help individuals arrange their navigational chart for a productive journey.

As we look back at John Henry, as inspiring as he is, we need not end up as tragic. We can’t control the winds of technology, but we can adjust our sails and navigate smart.



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