Employment Data Show A Need for More Empathy, Not Efficiency

An interesting blog post by George Anders, a business writer for Forbes, that posits our focus on efficiency in schooling and business may have hit the point of diminishing returns. He cites recent Bureau of Labor Statistics to support his argument that the fields expected to employ "at least 20% of the people in the US by 2020" are fields that require empathy as their primary skill rather than the ability to efficiently manipulate technology. (By the way, the Bureau of Labor's Occupation Finder tool can be a good real-world way to share information and discuss work with children wondering what they might want to do as adults.)

But there's no substitute for the magic of a face-to-face interaction with someone else who cares. Even the most ingenious machine-based attempts to mimic human conversation (hello, Siri) can't match the emotional richness of a real conversation with a real person. . . . . . . It's the same story in health care or education. Technology can monitor an adult's glucose levels or a young child's counting skills quite precisely. Data by itself, though, is just a tool. The real magic happens when a borderline diabetic or a shy preschooler develops enough faith and trust in another person to embark on a new path. What the BLS data tells us is that even in a rapidly automating world, we can't automate empathy.

This is an important point unschoolers and many alternative schoolers have made for decades: how a person is treated in life teaches them and shapes their attitudes about the world far more than what and how they are taught in school. Every now and then big business gets a wakeup call about this, as this blog does. Will business actually awaken and hear the call to stop turning school and work into efficient machines that humans are plugged into? Developing "faith and trust in another person" is key, but when that person is not really themselves, but acting their role of loyal employee or expert and using the power of school or employment to do something to you "for your own good," faith and trust are hard build. Empathy needs to be more than just a business or school objective to feel honest and real to most people.