Sometimes I daydream about what it might be like when I “retire,” whatever that will mean. For me, it always involves some sort of part-time job with less stress. I’ve enjoyed the times in my life when I was a teacher, and a part-time, non-tenure-track university position sounds appealing. I’m afraid that by the time I’m ready, those jobs will all be handled on line with MOOC’s, thus eliminating everything I loved about teaching.
Remember this is daydreaming, so anything is fair game. Another scenario has me working in a coffee shop. I love coffee and the vibe that surrounds it. I can’t draw trees or hearts in foam yet, but I could learn. This too is changing; Starbucks now has over 21,000 stores in more than 65 countries and they are starting to test an “order ahead app” so that customers can completely avoid the coffee shop scene and get in and out quickly. Being part of a digitally activated human assembly line is not my dream job.
I’ve always been pretty handy at fixing things around the house, and after all, I am an engineer, so a part time job at a hardware store is not out of the question, at least not in dreamland. True, cavernous megastores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have taken over this sector, but even there I’m often impressed with the kindly, helpful and knowledgeable folks who approach me and offer assistance. Often, they will even lead me to the correct item, and offer a few suggestions on its use. I could do this.
Except that orange or blue vests may soon be disappearing as well. Lowe’s actually has an innovation lab, and one of their latest creations is the OSHbot, currently undergoing trials in San Jose, California. These friendly robots can not only identify and locate products efficiently, but they can do so in whatever language you prefer. Like the humans they replace, they still need breaks (to recharge), training (software updates), and health insurance (extended warranty service).
It’s beginning to look like my retirement may consist of sipping a takeout latte while studying an online course on robot maintenance.