You’ve Been Replaced, Professor

DATE: November 7, 2064

SUBJECT: Letter of Termination

Dear Dr. Smith,

We are deeply saddened to inform you that your tenure as Professor at our university has come to an end. As of December 18, 2064, your position will be eliminated.

As you are well aware, the new technologies that have arisen over the past decade have drastically reduced the need for professors. Not only is it more cost effective to leverage these new tools, studies have revealed it only marginally decreases the quality of education that students will receive. In some cases, it has been proven to increase their level of learning. Here are some compelling insights:

  • The quality of Robo Professors has increased exponentially, and the error rate in responses to student inquiries has been lowered to only 1.2%. This is, in fact, a full two percentage point improvement on human professor inquiry response accuracy.
  • All lectures can be conducted from the ease of a student’s immediate location, and does not require them to engage in costly and time-consuming geographical relocations or commutes. This also, of course, cuts down on university cost to maintain facilities.
  • There is virtually no classroom discrimination between professor and student, of any kind, any longer.

We understand that this comes as a blow. However, as universities across the country have been eliminating their faculty positions over the past five years, we must now accept that this is the way of the future. As a university, we held out as long as we felt we could. At this point, we must bow to the tides of change. By the end of 2066, we will have eliminated all of our faculty positions and will only retain key administrative positions.

There have been pockets of resistance to this change from those claiming that students require human interaction for effective educational purposes. While we respect this viewpoint, and have certainly taken this into consideration, we simply do not find the evidence compelling enough to overturn our decision.

Thank you for your dedication over the years. We wish you the best of luck in your pursuits elsewhere.


Dean Terminus


A note from the author:

This letter is, obviously, purely fictional. And I do not think professors will be wholesale replaced by robots, nor will robots displace mankind. Our jobs, roles and positions will adapt, evolve and change to meet our evolving technologies.

As such, what is the purpose of such a post?

A great number of people have received an iteration of this letter over the decades (nay, centuries, really), and the lion’s share in blue collar positions. Those of us in white collar jobs may not entertain the possibility that it could happen so close to home, not in our role. Not in our position. Yet just how would you feel upon receiving this? How paralyzing would it be to face a future unknown to you? What would run through your head as you faced the elimination of your life’s work? Would you cheerfully relocate, retrain and reorient to a new position, just like that? Or would you become bitter and obstinate? Be honest. Imagine that letter had actually come to you.

Some overcome, many don’t (you very well might be part of the group that does not.) And this isn’t just a problem for the person who lost his or her job. It’s a problem for society. A significant segment of the population who feels disenfranchised and disillusioned, who feels that they have been rendered obsolete, will foment challenges; politically, economically and socially.

The displacement of people from traditional roles, roles to which they had become accustomed, is a challenge we have not handled entirely gracefully thus far. Michael Jones summarizes it tidily in an article for The Washington Post, Yes, the robots will steal our jobs. And that’s fine:

Instead of wringing our hands and blaming technology, we should be rolling up our sleeves to ensure that people who lose their jobs to technology are being retrained. This also requires patience — recognizing that it will take time for these workers to be reemployed in higher-skilled jobs.

We are looking at a future in which nearly all of our jobs will morph, evolve and change due to technological advances. Some foresight into how we plan on managing the transition of workers will be in order, particularly if we want it to go smoothly.

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