Lynne Cope Hummell

Will your job still exist in 2030?

That was the topic of a recent story on NPR a few months ago. I heard only the teaser to a later broadcast, but I started wondering right away.

I’m sure the Bluffton Sun will still be around in 11 years, but will it need an editor?

Remember your first job? Readers of different ages will have slightly different memories, won’t they? It depends on when we started working and where we lived.

As a teenager, living in the capital city, I worked in a day care center, helping take care of babies up to age 2.

Later, I was a cashier at Woolworth’s and then worked in an ice cream shop. Upon graduation from college, I took my journalism degree and went to work for a landscaper, pruning shrubs, mowing lawns and adding fertilizer to plantings. (My mother was so proud: “I knew you would end up spreading manure one way or another,” she teased.)

I eventually got a job as a secretary (because I could type fast) in a publishing house, and within a year became the chief copy editor – because I could also catch writers’ mistakes when I was typing their material.

A few years later, I landed in newspapers, where I have stayed.

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, made public in June, half of those jobs might not be around in 2030.

Food service workers, cashiers, secretaries and general office workers were among the top 10 job categories that could become obsolete in just over a decade.

They are likely to be replaced by automation. The report says automation will affect workers of all ages, but the youngest and the eldest will face particular and unique risks.

Young people will adapt. They are already learning skills that didn’t exist two decades ago. (My 4-year-old neighbor is on her second iPad.)

It’s the older folks, like me, who might have more to worry about. Unless you are employed in health care (registered nurses continue to be in demand), software or the financial sector, you could be out.

And that’s nothing new. Remember when we started to see all those patterned dots around the edges of our car windshields, back in the early ’70s? That was so “robots” could line up the windshield with the front of the car on the assembly line and place it properly.

Thousands of auto workers lost their jobs.

These days, robots seem to have taken over auto manufacturing. They also assist in micro surgery, answer online questions on websites (they’re called chat bots), and vacuum our floors.

In nearly every grocery store, there’s at least one lane for self check-out, complete with a calm robotic voice to remind you to place your items in the collection area.

I’m not sure how a robot could scoop a double dip of ice cream into a cone, but I can imagine that robots in a restaurant could wash dishes, make coffee, and take your credit card payment.

Robots might not do so well as a friendly clothing or hardware or car salesperson, but then again, retail as we knew it has already shifted toward online shopping. It was likely a robot that pulled your last online purchase off a shelf in a warehouse.

So, if editors do become extinct, and if I haven’t retired by then, what would I be? What would I do?

I’d like to think I would embrace the opportunity for radical change and explore lots of options. What would you do?