What Does Experience Mean?

What does experience mean in the modern world? It’s a question I’ve long pondered. In times before now, before the internet, iPhones, and the constant availability of knowledge, experience was truly important. You needed people who knew everything about something in order to run the world because it just took too long to learn new things.

That’s still true in some areas. We need want experienced doctors, for instance, and we still want experienced astronauts and scientists. Those fields are too complex to pick up quickly, but most others, it’s harder to say.

Take, for instance, accounting. Do you really need an experienced accountant anymore? Perhaps if you’re rich and you really want to avoid as many taxes as possible, but for the rest of us, it’s just a matter of using the right tax programs and doing a little research online.

How many fields will this be true for, in the future, I wonder? Will the state of knowledge reach a point where we don’t particularly need experts anymore?

It seems like this could possibly be true, in terms of available information, but that we’re going the opposite direction. Take a look at the job market. These days, an entry-level job requires two years of experience. How these two years are to be gained if entry-level positions aren’t available is not clear, but the requirement is there.

In fact, as machines and computers take over more manual and basic computation work every year, experience has become ever more prized, perhaps simply because we must prize some quality.

Or perhaps, we prize experience just because it’s in our nature to consider it an important quality, a respectable quality.

Consider this law page, which advertises for Munley Law, where experience is placed in bold as a major selling point. People still look for experience and take comfort in it, even if a new lawyer would have just as good a chance of winning that case as an experienced one.

So, perhaps the question should be rephrased. Experience in the modern world means one of the few things people still respect and pay for. The question should instead be: though we respect experience, do we really need it anymore?

I would bet that 90% of the jobs out there could be done by novices with only the very slightest amount of training.

That training and the requisite brief period of researching answers that might also be required may slow down employees temporarily, but when they come at entry-level wages, surely many industries will think the slow down more than justified.

Which again makes me think the question should be rephrased. If we don’t need experience in most jobs, how long before businesses realize this and start making changes accordingly, even if their customers still prefer experience?

It’s a sobering thought, and it’s just another sign that the way we view the ideas of employment and income is sure to change in the coming decades.

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