What Geologists can Learn from Michael Bloomberg

By: Erik Ronald, PG
Mining Geology HQ

15 May 2016

Michael Bloomberg, the American businessman, former mayor of New York City, and eighth wealthiest person in the world recently gave a commencement speech for the graduating class at the University of Michigan. In that speech, he stated the following:

Let’s start with the global economy, and let me put in perspective the job market many of you are entering. For the first time in human history, the majority of people in the developed world are being asked to make a living with their minds, rather than their muscles. For 3,000 years, humankind had an economy based on farming: till the soil, plant the seed, harvest the crop. Hard to do, but fairly easy to learn.

Then, for 300 years, we had an economy based on industry: mold the parts, turn the crank, assemble the product. Hard to do, but also fairly easy to learn.

Now, we have an economy based on information: acquire the knowledge, apply the analytics, use your creativity. Hard to do, hard to learn, and even once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have to start learning all over again, pretty much every day.

The scientist in me has to laugh at the 3,000 years of farming which are probably closer to 30,000 but that’s a discussion for another time. There are a few key points that I love about his statement. Firstly, the recognition that today’s global economy is based on data and that individuals who succeed must be able to understand, analyze, and use data. Secondly, he is encouraging people to use their human creativity that is so often taken for granted in corporations and lastly, the simple yet true statement that learning has to happen every day of your life to be successful.
So what can the average dirty, rock-licking geologist learn from these simple words? A lot I hope! Think back to university and what were the characteristics taught to you in order to become a successful geologist? You were required to take in a lot of data through field observations, assay, geophysics, mapping or whatever and analyze it thoroughly to make a creative interpretation. Then use your knowledge, skill and experience to project surface data at depth, work out time and structural relationships, and that’s just making the geological map! Most of us were challenged daily with new problems and forced to gather more data and come up with creative solutions that made sense, fit the data or forced us to reconsider everything. The global economy isn’t all strikes & dips but data is data. Therefore, any classically trained geologist should be well suited to today’s global economy as we were all fundamentally trained as scientists, which required us to gather and analyze data, use creativity, knowledge, and experience in inferring possible outcomes, models or processes.
I know that many geologists working in industry today probably find themselves in an environment more akin to Mr. Bloomberg’s reference to factories where the same job is performed over and over. Repetitive work may be necessary at times to make a buck but it kills creativity and stifles learning. I’d challenge any geologist working today to keep in mind your fundamental training in data analysis, creativity, and ability to continuously learn no matter if you’re logging chips on a rig, analyzing assay data, or writing software. Too often we become comfortable in repetitive tasks required of geologists including logging or modeling, when we should realize the reason there is a human in your role rather than software is for the abilities that Michael Bloomberg states are so key for today’s economy. In summary, whatever field or industry you work in, hone your skills as data analysts, use your human creativity in all aspects of your job, and whatever you do, don’t stop learning and challenging yourself.

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Posted in Mine Geology, Mineral Exploration, Resource Geology.

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