Before we get to today’s topic, here’s a shout-out and a big thank you to David Max, a reader of this publication – and of my column, obviously – who has a sharp eye. In last month’s column on IT careers, I discussed the alarmingly increasing rate of layoffs in the IT sector, offering data and citing my source. Problem is, I erred. The correct source is layoffs, fyi, not layoffs.com, as I mistakenly wrote. So thanks, David. Good catch!
Today, let’s talk about change which, in this 21st century, is so constant, so sweeping and so all-consuming that if we didn’t talk about it, that itself would be a change. But given the nature, pace and scope of change, we need to deal with it in a different way. To wit:
In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – or “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Through the ages, this has become one of the most universally accepted of all aphorisms. Who hasn’t said this (usually with a sigh)? Or, at least,who hasn’t nodded in agreement when hearing it? This adage gives tacit resignation to the observation that “even the most turbulent of changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.” (Wiktionary)
But I beg to differ.
Take energy, for example. In ancient times and even through today (for the most part), energy was consumed at the place it was produced: oarsmen powering a sea vessel, a potbelly stove heating the room in which it sat, or the use of pulleys to lift heavy loads. Then something extraordinary happened. The industrial revolution brought about a significant change in that one could store energy – using the battery – and then bring it and use it elsewhere. Then inventions like the telegraph (the first time in history that a message could be sent without being physically delivered), the telephone, the automobile and so forth, were added to the list of amazing innovations. Yet the production and consumption of energy were still physically connected; using the battery as an example,when it was fully charged, it then morphed from the energy consumer (storage) to the provider. But the biggest change in energy was yet to come.
Early this year at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, fusion energy was achieved safely in a controlled laboratory setting. The astonishing outcome was that the reaction produced more energy than it consumed – which is exactly what the hydrogen bomb did in 1952 – but now we know how to do it safely and regularly as well as commercially. Although we’re probably a decade or two away from commercialization, the innovators and early adopters are already in overdrive. This event will change the field of energy in the most profound ways, but it will also change how we manufacture products, from cars to chips to food. Also, safe, high-speed transportation
Beyond all this, entire national economies could—and most probably will—be transformed, and with them, the total world economy.
Now, thinking of energy alone, let your imagination go free for a while and picture what tomorrow might look like. From this career coach’s vantage point, it’s limitless: new industries, old industries functioning in new ways, new jobs and occupations, new sciences altogether, the solution to climate crisis, space and deep-sea exploration, rare earth mining, warfare (yeah, that too), technology-aided farming, construction, manufacturing, banking, finance, investing, and on and on and on. And as expansive as all this is, it pales in comparison to things like artificial intelligence and whatever will come out of the discoveries we make with the James Webb telescope.
The reason for this essay is to give you a small taste of the possibilities that will sprout from one development alone in energy. Problem is, most people fear change – “That new technology is gonna’ kill my job” – when in truth, these technologies will do the opposite by presenting more choices than any of us could have imagined before.
Eli Amdur has been providing individualized career and executive coaching, as well as corporate leadership advice since 1997. For 15 years he taught graduate leadership courses at FDU. He has been a regular writer for this and other publications since 2003. You can reach him at [email protected] or 201-357-5844.