By Colin Read
Issue: August 2022
In my short 63 years, I have experienced many eras — from the duck-and-cover days of the Cold War, the idealism of the 1960s hippy movement, the conclusion of the Vietnam War and the age of cynicism following Watergate. I recall disco and the hedonism of the 1980s and 1990s and its heralding in of the information age and the Internet. I saw people move from slide rules to handheld calculators and then computers and smartphones.
Beyond living in space, much of the futurism of George Jetson and Star Trek has now come of age. I read recently that we are on the verge of a cure for the common cold, and often now cancer is a treatable disease and not a death sentence.
In the last half century, change has become the new norm. Since most careers now span 40 or 50 years, it is now inevitable that the arc of a career must now follow the arc of change. No longer can one hang a piece of paper on a wall and a shingle on the door and move from learning to practice until retirement.
Learning is now and must now be lifelong. One who is not prepared to constantly evolve in the workplace is planning for her or his own irrelevancy. The law changes, now more quickly than ever in our history, the tax code changes, accounting practices change, as do business practices, policing and firefighting, even plumbing, electrical work, and the trades.
Overall, the evolution is exciting. We are building better mousetraps all the time. Our homes are better built, our cars are higher tech, last so much longer, and are much more efficient. Additionally, we hold in our hands far greater computing power than was needed to bring people to the moon and back, and we are even able to enjoy all the comforts of home sustainably and off the grid if necessary.
If we become ill, our doctors have at their disposal amazing diagnostic and curative technologies. One can even monitor breathing and sleep and blood pressure and the health of our heart on a smartwatch, and our doctors can access all that information automatically if need be.
We have come so far, but the relevant distance is the six inches between our ears. The success of effective leveraging of these new technologies depends on the willingness of our professionals to tap into and incorporate these new technologies into their practices.
From new portals and connections at our doctors’ offices, to the plethora of case law at the fingertips of lawyers through Lexis/Nexus, the tools our investment advisors can draw upon, and even the application of Artificial Intelligence that already does far more than we know and may someday be the arbiter of the loans we receive and the advice we value. The ability to tap into tools unimaginable a decade ago is now commonplace.
But technologists have a saying — Garbage in, garbage out. We need our professionals and our experts to help guide us to make good healthcare and legal choices, opt for a car or a home improvement that will best serve us, or even how we progress in our physical therapy or fitness improvement.
With the dramatic improvement in technology comes even greater importance for one to ensure that we are using wisely what is available to us. Some may be able to navigate this increasingly complex and information-rich world on their own, but most wisely avail themselves of the expertise of professionals who can help navigate the increasingly complex technologies around us to best serve our needs.
It is for this reason that professionals are no longer practitioners. They have become educators who help guide us through complexities and tailor solutions that work best for us, given our tolerance or embracement of technology. They do so knowing that we often come prepared with Internet research we have done on our own, so, like any good teacher, their job is now to always stay one step ahead of us, and never more than a step or two behind the leading edge of new technologies.
That is the modern professional challenge. Our professionals do so knowing that there is a continuous flow of young people behind them graduating with training in the most current technologies. This keeps the professions fresh, but it also keeps the seasoned professionals on their toes and relevant. Yes, the world is a most dynamic place these days. And I am grateful for that.
Dr. Colin Read is a professor of economics and finance at SUNY Plattsburgh’s School of Business & Finance. You can read his weekly blogs on the economy at www.everybodysbusiness.online.