Automation and Our Future
We’re all here, waiting for the rise of the robots, wondering what sort of impact the increase in automation will have upon our jobs. The 2013 study conducted by Oxford University’s Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne worried many when it showed that lots of white and blue collar jobs will be disrupted by the ever-increasing uptake of automation.
However, it might not be all bad, with many other academics and the UK government’s Science and Technology Select Committee assessing the potential consequences – ethical, legal and work-wise. The UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor also waded in to see if using more robots will actually benefit the state and its people in the long run.
An automated America
The US has also examined the impact of robot workers on its labour market, especially in the driving and manufacturing industries. However, most reports exhort people to become more flexible, more educated and ever-ready to adopt new skills to cope with changes in their jobs and the overall jobs market.
It’s not so much a case of just letting people go in favour of the machines, but of making sure that human workers are multi-skilled and always ready to learn something new.
Automation creates jobs
A living workforce that’s ready to take up a new job or new skills with little notice will actually benefit from automation. Bringing robots in actually tends to create more jobs – it’s just that we don’t know what these jobs are yet! Our children and grandchildren will have job titles we can’t even imagine!
Don’t despair, diversify!
In recent years, there’s been a lot of angst and concern over globalisation, and this worry may transfer itself onto the machines before much longer. However, this worry is misplaced. Just because a machine comes along that can do the work of ten assembly line workers because it has fancy chain attachments doesn’t mean those ten workers are on the scrap heap. Their time, their skills and energy could be channelled into something more productive and creative, so the grunt-work can be performed by an uncomplaining machine.
Related: Rise of the Robots
An agile, sensible approach
It’s clear that most governments are already on the case and they’re wondering what to do when there are job losses due to automation. There will be losses, there’s no doubt, but what we have to believe is that there will be new types of jobs and careers ready to receive these displaced workers.
As long as governments are willing to foster and support adult and lifelong learning, as well as to provide a basic citizen’s income to help workers as they lose hours, we can move forward quite comfortably into a different sort of future.
It’s also in the workers’ hands
There’s a lot of complacency among workforces. Many people leave school or university, dead-set on a particular career path or industry and never imagine leaving it. Perhaps there’ll be a new sort of career path norm in which people re-train in mid-life and go off on a completely different tangent. This means that workers in the near future will have to take more control over their education and in-work training rather than expecting to do the same job for life.
Maybe doing the same job day-in, day-out is for the robots from now on!
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