Friday, 22 June 2012

Has Your Job Been Invented Yet?

Has your job been invented yet?

Well? Has it? Perhaps not... perhaps you need to invent it for yourself.

It's a strange concept, isn't it? I thought so.

The idea hadn't even occurred to me until my husband and I took our daughter to visit her new school. She won't start in the nursery until September 2013, but since the intake is so small, we needed to put her name down as soon as we could.

We met with the head teacher - a truly lovely woman, the sort of person you hope will have some part of your child's life - and it was whilst sipping proper coffee in her office, all three of us watching our daughter at play, that she spoke. "We don't know what Alice will become. We don't know where she will go. It may even be that the job she ends up doing hasn't been invented yet."

That stunned me. I didn't let it show, of course, I had to keep my cool in front of this woman who is going to play such an important role in Alice's life, but the whole idea that there were things and ideas and concepts that were yet to exist almost floored me. I know it's true. I know we haven't come to the end of our brilliance as human beings (the Victorians might have thought they'd got it all sewn up, that they'd done it all, but I'm pretty sure I know better - possibly due to all the things that have been invented since then...). But even though I absolutely, positively know that she was right when she said it, I was still mesmerised by the whole untouched and impossibly unknowable expanse of it.

What amazed me was that I had never considered it before. What intrigued me was the thought that the things we take for granted might someday cease to be.

Doctor. Nurse. Lawyer. Teacher. Police officer. Accountant. Bus driver. Chef. Sports coach.

We take it as read that these things - these things that have always been there, for as long as we have known, anyway - will always be there.

We need them. Don't we?

But what if the jobs that the next generation and the next and the next invent does away with doctors or drivers or teachers? It doesn't seem possible, does it? Not to us, living as we are now. But I don't believe the lamplighters ever could have imagined a time when they wouldn't be needed anymore. And what about the typists in the typing pool?  Did the Witchfinder General ever think there would be a time when not only did we no longer fear witches, but we actually celebrated them?

It unnerves me, if I'm honest. It excites me too because I get to see what is happening. I get to be a part of it. It also saddens me because I can't live forever, and so I'll miss out on all the great stuff that's going to come after I'm gone.

One thing calms me though. There is one job that I'm sure - I just know - no advances could ever replace. No robots or magic or computer technology could ever stamp into the ground. That's the job of artist. Whether it be painting, writing, sculpting, creating in any form, that is a purely human thing.  That takes heart.  It's more than a job; it's a vocation.

So the artist is here to stay.

But what do I know? That's what the Elizabethans said about the gong farmer...

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