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The future of jobs in a machine world

Matthew Griffin | March 17, 2016
Between 30 percent and 50 percent of today's jobs will be automated by machines over the next 20 to 30 years, so which jobs are the safest?

The squeezed middle

Today there are a collection of technologies that are stirring the debate. However, unlike the disruptions of yesteryear where technologies replaced simple repetitive Blue Collar job functions near the bottom of the Skills and Complexity Pyramid they’re now starting to replace White Collar knowledge workers near the top. The result is an increasingly nervy global workforce and for the first time ever a squeezed middle who are becoming increasingly worried about their lack of specialisms and skills.

The technologies that will have the greatest impact and influence on the job markets can be divided into two groups. “Individual Emerging Technologies” such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Vision and hardware and software based Robots and “Aggregated Emerging Technologies” that combine different technologies together to create platforms that include Autonomous Vehicles, Avatars, Cloud, Connected Home, the Internet of Everything, Smarter Cities, Wearables and Telehealth.

Some of the world’s best self learning Artificial and Cognitive computer systems are already replacing advisors, artists, commentators, consultants, doctors, investigators, journalists, musicians, paralegals, teachers, translators and even the data scientists who created the original Algorithmic Models. Machine Vision systems are replacing quality inspectors, security analysts and security guards. Hardware Robots have already replaced many of the Blue Collar factory and warehouse jobs and now they’re replacing bar staff, maintenance workers, porters, soldiers, waiters and surgeons while their new, modern day software only counterparts are replacing administrative staff, customer service clerks and FX traders.

In the AET space Autonomous Vehicles – from cars and trucks to aircraft and half a million ton cargo ships are reducing the need for drivers, operating crews, pilots and even traffic wardens. Avatars are replacing actors, bank tellers, call centre agents, teachers and support staff. Cloud reduced the need for change managers, enterprise architects and operations staff while the Internet of Everything is reducing the need for engineers, facilities managers and maintenance workers. Smarter Cities will reduce the need for police, street cleaners and a myriad of other public servants while Wearables and Telehealth are both reducing the demand for secondary care workers, doctors and personal trainers.

The lists could go on and on.

Today we’re sitting on the beach mouths agape watching the tidal wave raise worrying about our futures but while it looks like the balance of power is only ever going to shift into the machines favour there is hope from a number of directions.

Safe harbous

Technology is going to keep improving at an exponential rate so where do we Humans flee to for work - which jobs are going to be safe, or at least safer harbors for the next twenty years?

Jobs that hard to specify and that require deep expertise in either one or ideally a mix of the following disciplines will be the hardest to automate: Dexterity, Emotional Intelligence, Negotiation, Originality, Perception, Persuasion and Social Intelligence.


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