Some scholars are trying to discern what kinds of learning have survived technological replacement better than others. Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy in their book “The New Division of Labor” (Princeton, 2004) studied occupations that expanded during the information revolution of the recent past. They included jobs like service manager at an auto dealership, as opposed to jobs that have declined, like telephone operator.
The successful occupations, by this measure, shared certain characteristics: People who practiced them needed complex communication skills and expert knowledge. Such skills included an ability to convey “not just information but a particular interpretation of information.” They said that expert knowledge was broad, deep and practical, allowing the solution of “uncharted problems.”
These attributes may not be as beneficial in the future. But the study certainly suggests that a college education needs to be broad and general, and not defined primarily by the traditional structure of separate departments staffed by professors who want, most of all, to be at the forefront of their own narrow disciplines. But this old departmental structure is still fundamental at universities, and it is hard to change.
Full article here from Robert Shiller.
A few random thoughts. Disciplines which are purely about knowledge accumulation are risky if the type of knowledge acquired is that which computers can accumulate in a fraction of the time. Lots of Ph.D's seem unlikely to be economically worthwhile considering the cost of higher education.
Watch the virtual assistant on your phone. Siri or Google Now are good benchmarks for what skills are becoming obsolete, and which are still of great value.
Most humans still prefer a bit of entropy and warmth from those they interact with, especially in the service sector, and indexing high on that still commands a premium.