How To Keep Up With Exponential Change

As featured in The Island Packet

In an age of exponential technological growth, people increasingly have to become more adaptable to find jobs. This is because the employment landscape is ever-changing. But this should come as no surprise if we draw connections between our occupational calling and our faith.

Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired magazine, has projected that by the end of the century, automated robots and machines will replace 70 percent of today’s occupations. That may seem hard to believe at first glance. But when you think that 200 years ago 70 percent of American workers lived on a farm, the reality quickly sinks in.

Just look around. Technological change is happening everywhere around us. And it isn’t difficult to envision more technological advancement in the future. It used to be when a person went to the store, another human would check them out. Now the process has been mechanized so that you can do it yourself. Before long, the whole system will be robotic. It also used to be the case that when a person traveled on a toll road, they had to pay an employee at a tollbooth. Now you can mount an electronic toll-collection device on your car, and the mechanized system will record you going through the toll. Not only that, but the system will automatically withdraw more funds from your bank for you to pay the toll if necessary.

ATMs have replaced many bank tellers. Robots have replaced autoworkers. And companies, right this moment, are seeking to find ways to have drones replace human delivery services.

Now I am sure most of us would not argue that these advancements are bad; they just force us to adapt. Bank tellers become ATM repairmen. Autoworkers become robotics experts. And it is likely that your current UPS delivery person will be coordinating drone delivery in the future.

But how are we to know how to make such adjustments without getting left behind in this flurry of rapid technological change? Well, I think the teachings of Jesus show us the way. Let me explain.

Jesus was a master at looking at the changing social landscape and determining how to properly respond. Plenty of folks in his day made the case that things should always be done the way they had been done in the past. But Jesus didn’t allow himself or his disciples to be constrained by these old ways of thinking. Instead he taught his disciples that the change they were facing was an opportunity for their holistic growth.

That, of course, didn’t imply the changes would be easy. It would take practice, training and belief that the goals set before them could be accomplished. And, in the midst of that preparation, the disciples would fail regularly. But eventually, in humility and community, they would adapt to the change before them and become better than they were before.

Now I would not assume, even for a second, that some modest biblical comparison would provide much comfort to someone who is urgently in need of work. That is not my supposition or intention.

My point is this: If you or someone you know is struggling to find work because the world is ever more rapidly changing around you, there is a way you/they can have hope. You can have hope because God has a plan to see you through the change you are facing right now. And you can be assured that, once you get through it, you will be better on the other side of it.

And, like the disciples had, there is a community of people willing to walk through the processes of life’s changes with you: the church Jesus created.