As we continue to improve technologies with the goal of automating tasks, how much time is spent considering what the cost to people’s livelihoods will be? If we look back to an example from the early 1900s, where the horse industry was disrupted by automobiles, a large number of people had to re-train themselves, because their jobs no longer existed. This transition, however, happened over a 30 year period, which allowed people time to adjust and develop new skillsets.
The difference between then and now is the speed at which technology is created and adopted. How can we humans compete with these technologically advanced rivals…should we even try? Artificial Intelligence, like Skynet from the Terminator movies, won’t destroy us with one massive nuclear explosion, it will replace us with incremental technological improvements at an unsustainable pace.
Which Jobs Are The First To Go?
Last year, Oxford University put together a list that detailed the probability of computerization for thousands of types of employment. They examined certain key skills required (creativity, manual dexterity, etc…) for each position and calculated the probability that they would be automated in 20 years. The results were shocking. Approximately 45% of currently employable positions were estimated to be eliminated by 2035.
Sifting through the research, one thing was made clear. The jobs that were the least likely to become automated had two correlations; they generally were the highest paid and they required the most post secondary education. The BBC put together a website that you can use to search a job title in order to see how likely it is to be eliminated. It’s both exciting and unnerving to try it…if you’re feeling lucky, check it out here: BBC Job Automation Probability Search
Technologies Coming To The Workplace
So what are these technologies that are slowly eroding away the need for humans in the workplace? Here are of some of the products that are competing for your job this year:
Virtual Reality / 360 Degree Cameras:Virtual Reality allows us to immerse ourselves in another world. It is making its real debut this year in the video game industry, but enterprise applications will soon hit the market. Combining VR with high resolution 360 degree cameras allows the user to do some pretty amazing things. Instead of needing to travel to visit a client’s site or vice versa, you can now virtually visit and actually walk around the environment like you are really there. Clients will no longer have to sit and watch a 2D or 3D rendering of a design, but will now be able to move through the potential space. This combination of technologies will globalize the service industry, allowing people to create richer relationships with professionals all over the world.
Drones: Drones aren’t just for hobbyists anymore. They range from the popular quad copter, used frequently in the movie industry to eliminate complicated video shots, to digging machines, which may replace miners entirely. Even the US Navy is getting on board with the release of the very first unmanned naval ship.
Last week, PwC released their research regarding drones and how they anticipate that they will replace $127 billion in consulting and labour income over the next 5 years!
Drones will provide businesses across many industries the ability to centralize their workforce and allow them to work across enormous distances safely and effectively.
Artificial Intelligence: AI is the technology that may soon put us all on the unemployment line. When computers can effectively receive commands, analyze data and predictively make decisions they will become the ultimate personal assistants. Apple’s Siri is the most popular AI that is in front of the consumer today. In reality, it can only handle simple questions and commands, but it’s a great first step.
Recently it was published that IBM’s Watson, arguably the world’s most mature AI system, has already received two jobs. In its first position, Watson acted remotely as a teaching assistant for students at the University of Georgia. When it was revealed at the end of the semester that their teaching assistant was an AI the students were shocked. Then, it was announced last week that Watson had landed its second job. The AI has been hired by one of the United States’ largest law firms, Baker & Hostetler, to sift through mountains of data, provide succinct answers to questions and monitor ongoing cases that may have pertinent results to be reviewed. Examples like these are just the beginning.
“A human is the most inefficient animal on the planet. A human with a bicycle becomes the most efficient.” – Steve Jobs
Harness The Power
It’s becoming increasingly clear that humanity’s evolution is tied to technology. Since these new systems won’t be leaving the job market anytime soon, people need to start increasing their skill sets as jobs become automated. Perhaps, we also need to start focusing on careers that leverage the creativity, care and strategic thinking that makes us human.
At Grade A, we truly believe that a business’ success is tied directly to its ability to leverage technology. This is becoming increasingly clear as we look into the future. As business professionals, we should take comfort in knowing that as time goes on we will have more tools and resources that will allow our teams to be more effective. Instead of seeing this rise of tech as our inevitable downfall, we should see it as a chance to adapt and change, and to seize the new opportunities that will present themselves in our ever-changing world.