My niece just finished her final high-school exams last week.
She’s everything an 18-year-old should be: confident in her choices, and excited and hopeful for the future.
Like many school leavers, she’s planned a month-long overseas holiday with her mates. Come the new year, she’ll begin studying at university in her chosen field.
The degree she’s chosen looks future-proof for now. Robots aren’t about to take over her dream job.
But that assumes she’ll be able to land a job upon completion of her degree.
New data from the federal government this week shows that only two-thirds of students finish their degree within six years.
More worryingly, only 71% of students get a job straight after graduating. The rest have a ‘short-to-medium-term’ period they have to wait before finding employment. Of those, 15% are still unemployed four years after graduating.
These are sobering statistics…
But consider the prospects facing Australia’s truly young. In fairness, most aren’t thinking about employment at this stage of their lives. But I suspect they’re being undereducated about what sort of jobs will be available to them 15 years from now.
What do you picture when you think of the future of employment? Factory lines full of robots? Shopping centres with friendly R2D2-type robots helping you find what you want?
While automation will be incredibly disruptive to the employment landscape, there are industries perceived to be ‘safe’ that will also decline as a result of automation. Technology is replacing even those roles that we thought were ‘people only’.
However, I’m not referring to an uprising of robots as far as some of these specific industries are concerned.
I’m talking about the blockchain.
Banks and large financial firms have spent the last couple of years looking at how they can use blockchain technology to their benefit. As a result, researchers have discovered that there just might be no limit on what the blockchain can do.
Blockchain is revolutionary
At the very least, in my view, it’s going to loosen the banks’ control of the financial system. But it’s also going to put many people out of work. Even those in industries that everyone deems safe.
Take cyber security, for example. Thousands of people work on protecting and securing digital communications in this field. However, with the blockchain, we simply won’t need as many people for this.
The reason is because the blockchain ‘confirms’ data each step of the way. It’s called ‘proof-of-work’ (PoW). It analyses that what was supposed to happen did end up happening.
In other words, the computer code behind the blockchain accepts the PoW process is complete, which is the same as a human verifying the information.
For cyber security, however, it means that the blockchain would confirm cryptographic techniques — interrupting the message and assessing that it has come from the right source. This confirms it and allows the message to pass through.
As use of the blockchain ramps up, chances are that we’ll see ‘hacking’ attempts drop as a result. The blockchain system is far more robust than current systems we use. What the blockchain does a thousand times a second might take one person several minutes to do. Goodbye cyber spooks!
But even stock markets may not be safe from blockchain’s arrival. The role of clearing houses in the stock market could one day disappear. That’s because the blockchain can do this task automatically. And quicker than the current ‘T+2’ settlement time in Australia. That is, the ‘time’ you buy the shares, plus the two days it takes the ASX to clear the funds and transfer ownership of the stock.
The rise of ‘T+0’ is a possibility with the blockchain. Quicker settlement time and lower fees will become a reality when the ASX adopts blockchain technology.
Finally, your accountant may want to start looking over their shoulder. And your lawyer too.
Why? The blockchain is a digital record of events. It makes it easier to identify factual information.
Think digital wills, housing contracts, or divorce settlements.
Of course, there are industries that will always require people to function. In fact, I think I have discovered one of the few careers that may in fact grow alongside blockchain technology.
I’ll explain what that is in tomorrow’s Markets & Money.
Editor, Markets & Money