Does Mark Cuban Want You to Die In Poverty?

A friend of mine asked me for the thoughts on this article and video…

What Mark Cuban Says will be the #1 Job Skill in 10 Years

The TL/DR is “creative thinking” therefore pursue a liberal arts degree, in lieu of other applied fields such as, pointedly, software engineering.

Which is probably suicide.

I’ve never quite understood the hero-worship over Mark Cuban. I get that he’s successful and made a lot of money in the tech bubble, but I think his key bit of acumen was getting diversified before the crash. After that, what? Basketball teams? Shark Tank? Okay. He probably doesn’t think much of me either, so whatever.

But, no, a liberal arts degree isn’t going to be any more valuable in 10 years than it is today. There’s nothing wrong with these skills for their own merits, but society and the economy is already telling us their value in an employment related context. And that value is not positively correlated in any respect to what college tuition costs.

Yes, in the coming years, we’ll have more data being produced, and more information being thrown at us. Just like if we compared today to ten years ago. But if anything, those societal changes have made knowing how to understand data, manipulate data, generate data even more of a valuable skill… The demand for software professionals (which is simply people who work with data) is vastly outstripping supply and will continue to do so for decades. The notion that because we have more data means we’ll need fewer data-literate professionals is, even on its surface, pure idiocy.

Meanwhile the job opportunities for liberal arts education majors seems often to come from service industry positions that have nothing to do with their degrees. These are exactly the places where automation is going to displace employment. And by, “displace” I mean totally erase. We are on the verge of possibly the biggest shift in employment demand since the invention of the steam engine, and hundreds of millions of people are going be underemployed due to technological innovation. If a graduate’s primary job skill is analyzing French literature, and they spent $100,000 and four years to get there, I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re hosed.

There’s some sort of mythology around liberal arts degrees being more creative than applied fields. I don’t know where this thinking originated, but I’ll wager it didn’t come from anybody actually working on problems in any applied field. Problems in business and applied sciences not only require creative, critical thinking… They often have enormous consequences when creative solutions can’t be found on time and on budget.

Don’t believe me? Because, you know, Mark Cuban? Basketball? Maybe read these articles instead of listening to Mark…

Only 2% of employers are actively recruiting liberal arts degree holders. Compare that to the 27% that are recruiting engineering and computer information systems majors and 18% that are recruiting business majors.

It’s unclear whether liberal arts graduates are pursuing social service jobs because they’re more drawn to them, because they’re suited to a wider breadth of possible fields (which also contributes to a slow start salary-wise) or because that’s simply what’s left after all the other jobs are taken.

If you’re going to college, get a degree in building something. Business, “hard” science or engineering. These are problem solving degrees that require not just creative thinking, but creative problem solving. Those are the skills employers need.

Or, get a degree in, essentially, debt management. Because that’s probably the primary differentiable skill you’re going to acquire with an advanced liberal arts degree.

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