Today's Necessary Skills, Tomorrow's Hobbies: From the Comments
Last week, I asked which essential skills will someday be obsolete. From the comments, it looks like there’s a clear consensus on cooking. I expect my kids’ generation will cook the way my generation sews: as a hobby. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if, within a couple of decades, people aren’t “remodeling” their kitchens by having them removed.
The effect may not be huge, but we will therefore live in a cleaner and less wasteful world. How much energy is consumed running fridges that are half-empty? What else could be done with the labor and materials that went to produce stoves, ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers that are only used a few times a day or a few times a week? How much spoiled food gets thrown out every day? What else could we do with the resources that are currently devoted to food distribution, retail, and home storage?
Reader Fazal Majid notes that writing rather than typing might produce better recall and nominates the ability to speak multiple languages:
There is some research showing taking notes on paper yields better recall than taking them on a computer, so don’t write off handwriting just yet.
If translation software progresses (a big if), it is conceivable the ability to speak multiple languages may become less of an asset.
I would love to be able to speak multiple languages, and I’m sure my life would be richer if I could; however, given the availability of high-quality English translations I’m not sure just how much better my life would be if I could read Les Miserables in French or The Brothers Karamazov in Russian.
Reader Peter H makes this important point about cooking:
Re: cooking as a skill to become obsoleted.
I think that cooking at home will become a less necessary skill, but unlike knitting or blacksmithing, which are now pure hobbies, will still be a professional skill for quite some time to come.
For a number of reasons, particularly the extreme heterogeneity of vegetables and the fact that freshly prepared meats and vegetables are delicious, same-day preparation from raw ingredients will remain the norm of food prep for a long time to come. That may be outsourced from the home to professional cooks in a restaurant, but it will still be done by human cooks. Standardizing the inputs enough to automate the cooking process will lead to inferior quality outputs.
I can see this, but if this robot can in fact make 360 gourmet burgers per hour, I’m not sure whether this will be the case or not. We’re probably a long way from producing Robot Gordon Ramsay, but it looks like the days of human chefs at mid-range steakhouses are probably numbered. Are we looking at a future of Ruth’s Chris steaks at Steak-n-Shake prices?
As I write this, my six-year-old is in the dining room playing with Legos and toy trains (just FYI, the world at the intersection of Jabba’s palace and Sodor is a pretty interesting place). With the diffusion of ride-sharing services and the development of self-driving cars, I wouldn’t be shocked if he never actually drives a car. I’m honestly a little excited when I think about what people will do with all the freed-up time and energy they would otherwise spend figuring out how to drive. It reminds me of this quote from Ellis Wyatt in Atlas Shrugged:
What’s wealth but the means of expanding one’s life? There’s two ways one can do it: either by producing more or by producing it faster. And that’s what I’m doing: I’m manufacturing time… I’m producing everything I need, I’m working to improve my methods, and every hour I save is an hour added to my life. (Source: Wikiquote)