Are robots going to take over?
There has been a lot of talk around automation in recent years with A.I. and robotic technologies advancing at an unprecedented rate. Rather than listen to vast array of online opinions, we decided to take a look at what the economists had to say.
In the future of #work it's jobs, not people, that will become redundant. - World Economic Forum via Twitter
1. Buzzwords are the Big Shebang
What's driving these big changes in the job market?
It boils down to four specific tech advancements that's turning work as we know it upside down. A quick spoiler alert: these categories are arguably the biggest buzz words in the tech and startup space.
- High Speed Mobile Internet
- Artificial Intelligence
- Big Data
- Cloud Technology
Odds are, you weren't too surprised by this... perhaps you even rolled your eyes (we did too). Nonetheless, these buzz words can walk the walk, as they are supported by socio-economic trends that only drive their growth and adoption.
How quickly is this happening?
Take a look at the figure below. It outlines adoption rates of some emerging technologies by 2022. Not to state the obvious, but 2022 is only three years away. It's quite incredible to imagine nearly all companies adopting some form of big data and app-based technology in 36 months.
2. "Hey Siri, Tell Me More About Robots."
Long story short, it's a slow and steady race
According to the report, robot adoption rates vary anywhere between 23% and 37%, depending on the industry. Although these aren't as staggering as the figures we listed above, it still alludes to emerging business interests in the technology.
Robots are sexy, but machine learning is the brains behind the operation
The hardware behind robotics is only the tip of the iceberg. As automation becomes more and more prevalent in manufacturing, hardware costs will become slimmer and slimmer. True market value and differentiation stems from the deep learning software that powers and controls the physical devices. As the rate of tech adoption continues to gain velocity, machine learning will be a cornerstone for investments in emerging tech.
3. Work Automation: The New Wild, Wild West
What exactly is automation?
When most people think of automation, it's likely they're envisioning self-driving cars or a robotic arm whipping up a morning latte. However, automation can be anything from a simple algorithm to a humanoid robot. Essentially, if it can complete a process with little or no human assistance, it's automated.
How it's changing everything
By 2022, it's predicted that the number of work hours completed by humans will nearly equal that of machines. In other words, almost 50% of all work completed will be done by a machine.
Don't hit the panic button just yet. While this is a huge jump from the current figure (29% of work is currently being completed by machines), it is expected that the automation wave will create move jobs than it takes away. Based on the stats in the report, 75 million jobs may be displaced by some kind of automation, and 133 million jobs are expected to emerge to support this new automation.
These tech advancements will indubitably revolutionize they way we live, work, and interact with our world. Technology of this caliber has previously only been experienced in sci-fi movies and comic books, and the world of automation is brand new territory for humankind.
Below are the projected ratios of human to machine hours based on type of work. You'll notice the biggest jumps are in administrative tasks (16%), identifying and evaluating job-relevant information (17%), and data processing (15%).
It's important to note that these are projections. While the researchers and economists that created this report are undoubtedly qualified to assert these estimates, they are by no means set in stone. These figures offer visualization and future benchmarks for the trends we see developing today.
4. Change is the Only Constant
Demand for jobs is growing... and changing
Although automation is responsible for some job losses, it is predicted that losses will be offset by job gains. This trend will cause a shift high-demand roles and will create new roles entirely.
Some high-demand jobs that won't come as a surprise include:
- Data analysts and scientists
- Software and app developers
- UX/UI designers
Here are some not-so-obvious jobs that should expect an uptick in demand:
- People and culture specialists
- Social media and ecommerce specialists
- Customer service workers
- Digital marketing strategists
In the second list, you might have noticed a common thread. According to the WEF, "expected to grow are roles that leverage distinctively ‘human' skills." This reveals a certain beauty in automation, where it allows humans to be more human. Leveraging machines and AI to complete work that is monotonous and mundane can allow for us to do what we do best: create, communicate, explore, and innovate.
"Manual dexterity is so last year."
Not only are jobs changing, but so are the skills we value in job candidates.
Skills stability is a term used to refer to the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that remains constant. Over the next few years, the global average for skills stability is about 58%. This means that workers will need to evolve with job markets by sharpening skills and learning new ones.
According to the report, by 2022, at least 54% of workers will require significant re-skilling or up-skilling. "Human" skills (think: creativity, initiative, persuasion, and critical thinking) are predicted to retain their value, while emotional intelligence, leadership, and social influence are expected to see an increase in value by 2022.
5. Next on the Agenda: Addressing the Skill Gap
- Hire new staff that already has skills relevant to these new technologies. This is the most likely outcome for most companies, but almost a fourth of companies are undecided on their approach.
- Seek automation of these tasks. Although this may be the simplest solution, automating roles rather than rehire or retrain, it won't work in every situation. For instance, it would be difficult to automate R&D or brand development.
- Retrain existing workers. This continues to be a big priority for workers performing high value roles, and it will be used as a means for strengthening the organization's strategic capacity.
The WEF report highlights the importance of creating a culture of inclusive, lifelong learning. This duty falls primarily on companies themselves, where they will be responsible for taking action internally to support this transition. But it will also require significant partnerships with other stakeholders - educators, governments, and labor unions.