Robots Are Killing Your Jobs. Are You Prepared?
We have read about it in novels, seen it in numerous movies and now, we are reading it in newspapers. The world is being taken over by technology and humans are being replaced by technological versions of the workforce, driven by automation and Artificial Intelligence. This is not a superficial notion or a form of fiction anymore. If you’ve been tuning into news regularly, you’d know that it is turning into reality, perpetually and quite rapidly.
The Gradual Takeover Story
Recently, Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and supplier for Apple and Samsung, replaced 60,000 workers with robots. Foxconn also aims for a 30% robot workforce in the next five years. Canon Inc., in 2012, started moving towards fully automating the digital camera production, which it aims to complete by 2018. Amazon has already established itself in employing robots in its fulfilment centers and plans to automate the picking process too. In Indian IT sector, Wipro has announced deploying its AI platform, Holmes, to automate the job of, and hence, replace 3,000 engineers.
The Forthcoming Threats
While most of the automation till date comprised of mechanical muscles and replaced human labour in manufacturing, technological advances in the field of automation and digitalization have led to replacing human brains as well. This will result in more than 5 million jobs being replaced by robots, automation and artificial intelligence by the year 2020, as predicted by World Economic Forum.
As machines are getting smarter and self-learning, it is not only the routine repetitive jobs like those of cashiers and shop assistants going away from humans. There are imminent dangers ahead for the jobs of drivers, bank tellers, paralegals, bookkeepers, transcriptionists and medical secretaries.
Are There Any Safe Houses for Humans?
There have been arguments on how automation cannot take away whole occupations that are comprised of numerous tasks that could be heterogeneous. People have also argued that jobs involving creativity, empathy and decision-making in the face of adversity and lack of data cannot be taken away from humans.
However, there have been instances that could help in dismissing the above arguments. IBM’s Watson is being used today to find new solutions and patterns in the fields like law, medicine and even cooking. Watson has also been used as a Teaching Assistant (Jill Watson) by Ashok Goel to assist students in his class. Besides Watson, there’s SoftBank’s Pepper: it can read emotions and can communicate with humans through voice, touch and expressions. Pepper can easily be employed in Hospitality. As far as creativity is concerned, Emily Howell, an interactive computer program, has been composing music from a derived source database since the 90s.
From professionals to white-collar jobs and low skilled jobs, all are on the verge of being hit by the automation wave. The only question that remains in this debate is not if robots are coming for your jobs but how quickly they are coming and how we can prepare for it.
How You Can Start Preparing Yourself Now
- Accept & Adapt: The first step to preparation towards a world dominated by intelligent robots is acceptance. Once you’ve made your peace accepting the inevitable, you should be willing to adapt to it. Technological advancements come in steps and flexibility can help survive a few rounds, if not all.
- Stay up-to-date: As old job roles fade away and new ones are created, it becomes paramount to stay a step ahead and keep updating your skill set to match new requirements.
- Reform Education: This is a major step towards preparation of future generations. The current system obsessed with reading, writing and arithmetic needs to be upgraded to a system that teaches skills difficult for machines to replicate. These skills include ideation, ingenuity, large-frame pattern recognition, complex communication and an easier way to continue learning throughout one’s life.
Solutions Proposed for the Future
In the wake of potential dangers looming over millions of human jobs, the proposed idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is gaining popularity. A once utopian, controversial and crazy idea of giving out a fixed amount of money to people to cover the basic expenses is now being considered seriously in political and economic circles. Some cities like Utrecht (Netherlands) and Lausanne (Switzerland) are considering experimenting with the idea.
There is an interesting perspective put across by Federico Pistono, author of Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK. In his TED Talk, he talks about how by changing our attitude, goals and purpose, we can build self-sustaining societies and lead better and more fulfilling lives. This would also, according to him, help humans use their cognitive minds and ingenuity to achieve what has not even been thought of, yet.
The Other Side of the Coin
While the future might look quite dreary at the moment considering the information you’ve been fed with, there is a brighter side to it too.
- New technological developments would pave the way for new and better job roles.
- Reduced costs of goods and services from lowering the cost of production.
- Increased productivity leading to a plethora of options for expenditure (more outings, more luxury goods) and consequently, more jobs.
- With manual jobs out of human hands, free minds can work on creativity and innovations never thought of.
- Free human hours could be spent on finding solutions for serious environmental issues plaguing our planet and maintaining ecological balance.
- No need to slog away at uninteresting, monotonous jobs just to pay the bills.
- Fewer jobs would mean more time with family and more attention towards children and their education.
Although there’s still some time before the new technologies get tested and completely take over the jobs one by one, we are certainly inching closer to the inevitable robot era with each passing day. It might be too early to say what and how the jobs of future will look like, but not too early to shift the mindsets and start preparing for the future.