Career Fear (and how to beat it), Synopsis

 

Career Fear (and how to beat it) is not another manual on how to find a good job, it’s a wake-up call for society at large, and young people, in particular, regarding the impact of technology on the career landscape and the future of business and the economy. As a filmmaker and tech philosopher, Somi Arian takes the reader on a journey through storytelling and the use of metaphors and analogies that young people can relate to. At the same time, Arian brings up deeply philosophical and existential questions about life purpose, knowing oneself and finding our place in the world. The premise of the book is a three-act story of the relationship between humans and technology, as follows:

  • Context: the digital revolution and artificial intelligence are changing the business landscape in fundamental ways.
  • Problem: we are not prepared and equipped with the skills and knowledge for dealing with the fast pace of technology and impending job losses.
  • Resolution: we can innovate and create new industries and career paths by learning four crucial human skills.

Arian suggests three keywords for breaking the code of career success and fulfilment in life: Perspective, Mindset, and (Human) Skills.  

career - career fear - somi arian - book

Part One – Perspective

Sign up to unlock the full synopsis!

Loading...

Here, Arian emphasises the importance of history in gaining perspective on the future. As humans, we have three primary functionalities which allow us to survive and thrive in life. These functionalities are physical, mental, and emotional. The concept of work was born the moment we decided to outsource some of our functionalities by using animals, forces of nature, or other humans. Technology is the tool that we use to facilitate this act of outsourcing. Work is the performance of a given functionality itself. Perhaps the earliest example of outsourcing was when we used fire to cook our food – we outsourced part of our digestion to fire, therefore some of our earliest forms of technology were created around harnessing the power of fire. 

In the beginning, humans were only able to outsource their physical functions. The first two Industrial Revolutions enabled us to do this on a large scale, and that was when the concept of management was born to help employers and employees keep track of time, vs productivity, and wages. This was the decisive point where mindfulness was lost in the workplace, as people were physically present at work but began to daydream in a countdown to finish the day and go home. 

Arian concludes that there has been a correlation between the growth of technology and the loss of mindfulness and that this trend will continue until we make a conscious choice to integrate mindfulness in our work and lives. Another area where technology played a key role was its impact on our sense of identity. 

During the Industrial revolution, jobs became part of people’s identity, only to be disrupted by the increasing pace of technological advancements. These developments prepared the background for the birth of modern entertainment and the celebrity culture, which gave people an escape from the often unpleasant reality of their work lives. Their sense of worth and identity was often crushed, thanks to the scientific management methods popularised by the likes of Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor. Meantime, the silver screen showed them an image of life so magical and unreal that they began to idolise those who appeared on the screen. 

Finally, Arian delves into the modern career landscape and examines popular career paths such as the influencer culture, and entrepreneurship, in comparison to corporate and start-up work environments. Studying the impact of artificial intelligence on the future career landscape, she looks at some of the new roles we will need to develop to enable humans to work alongside their AI counterparts. Some of the areas that call for innovation and development are “reimagining time, transition architecture, and human-machine relations, which includes ethics of AI, and AI psychology“. 

 

Part Two – Mindset

 

Socrates said, “know thyself”, he didn’t say how to do it. Having studied the career landscape in the past, present and future, Arian talks about why it has never been more important to know ourselves and to find our place in the world. In knowing ourselves, we study the OCEAN model which helps us understand our personality traits, also known as The Big Five, which is, “Openness, consciousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism“. Understanding these personality traits will also help us to apply them to our relationship with others which is the foundation of emotional intelligence, discussed in Part Three. 

Arian investigates what makes some people more driven and motivated than others and how this affects our relationship with the outside world. She explores how we can find our place in the world and looks back to The Big Bang, and how life was formed as a result of the interplay of Order and Disorder. This reminds us of both the insignificance of human life on a cosmic scale, as well as its preciousness, and the amazing and awe-inspiring fact that we are alive and we can create our own experiences and destiny. 

From a cosmic scale, Arian then narrows down on our planet and looks at the challenges and opportunities we are facing today, thanks to the proliferation of the internet, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, climate change and the digital economy. Understanding these facts empowers the reader to choose a life and career path that enables them to get involved and make a difference. 

 

Part Three, (Human) Skills

 

Here, Arian discusses four “(human) skills” which we need to develop to be successful in the age of technological disruptions. The emphasis on the human aspect is to differentiate these skills from technical skills such as math and science. Human skills are Emotional Intelligence, Critical Thinking, Contextual Creativity, and Mindfulness

Arian suggests that mindfulness is the foundation of the other three skills. It allows us to stay fully engaged and be present in any situation we deal with, which has never been more critical than it is today in our fast-paced world of constant distractions. As artificial intelligence becomes more integrated into all aspects of our lives, we risk losing essential skills that make us human and differentiate us from our machines. For example, research shows that young people’s level of emotional intelligence has declined since the advent of digital technologies. Furthermore, our reliance on AI and automation could decrease our ability to think critically in our decision making. 

One of the areas where critical thinking becomes paramount is in defining success and setting realistic goals. This is becoming more difficult for young people due to the impact of social media algorithms conditioning them to pursue a fast-paced path to success that is often statistically improbable and can lead to burn out. 

Arian draws upon the works of Nassim Taleb and Daniel Kahneman to explain the concept of Black Swan, and the role of probability and chance in achieving extreme levels of material success and fame which many anxiously chase, and dream of. As a result, many young people suffer from depression and anxiety in their quest for success. Arian encourages the reader to ask what success means to them, and she provides signposts to help them decide this for themselves. 

Another human skill that is emphasised in this final part of the book is contextual creativity which is different from “narrow creativity”, which machines can replicate. Contextual creativity relies on tuning into the subjectivity of others, and our intuition to come up with unique and creative ways to alleviate other people’s suffering or enhance their experience of life. 

The combination of these human skills aims to give the reader the tools they need to innovate and set their own path and create new industries that are as of yet unimagined.