If you didn’t hide under a rock for the last decades you’ll probably understand mankind is on a direct dirt path to replace simple or repetitive activities provided by people to be provided by robots and other types of machines.
I’m not talking about artificial intelligences either. This type of work machines will just hit a sweet spot wherein they are affordable and flexible enough for all types of industries to make a use of. Cyber-physical systems are already part of the Industry 4.0 revolution as of now. Consumer-facing areas won’t be far behind. Also, this isn’t about preference either, this is just economic Darwinism. Commercial organizations will always strive to increase profit and decrease cost. That’s the nature of business. Please consider this feature opinion article more of a recommendation than scaremongering.
At some point in the future machines will do basic dentist work, hand you your bread in the bakery and help you try shoes on in a shop. Other basic activities have been transitioned to be delivered by machines as well long ago (e. g. An automated teller machine, also known as ATM). And the things that aren’t automated will become so easy and comfortable that everybody can do it on their own leveraging “self service” (e. g. refuel your car at the station).
Why am I writing this?
Basically I am not concerned about the robots taking over in the future. However I worry for people working in jobs, that could already be automated by technology as of today. These people have their busy lives and feel that they have arrived where they need to be and knowing everything they have to know. Maybe they don’t see that this isn’t future proof and that job won’t exist forever.
In particular I am concerned about young people settling for a career path that leads them to such a position. They will definitely live to witness this change. And yet it is not a battle lost before it started. As early as starting today, you can prepare for this to happen and if you work towards this change and not against it, you will always have a role within your employing organization. But you need to work for it.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
What professions are potentially subject to automation?
Many people think that only low-salary activities are subject to be taken over by machines. I can assure you that is not the case. Whether you’re selling bread, making someone’s hair or saving lives with complicated surgeries, as long as the activity, and the process to complete it, can be standardized in a way, a machine can take over your job.
Especially occupations that put a person in charge of other people’s lives like in transportation or medical services have a focus to get automated. Machines are always sober, focused and able to follow a decision pattern to the statistically right action. Here are a few activities listed, that could be sooner or later in scope to be automated.
- Retail and cashier activities
- Exchange of goods
- Beauty services
- Medical and healthcare services
- Legal services
- Governmental services
- Law enforcement
- State defense
- Gardening and home services
- Basic manufacturing activities
- Everything repetitive
- Power and water plant work
- Transportation / aviation
- Space exploration
- Activities following defined workflows without exposure to unknown unknowns
Could that be technologically implemented?
Yes – The foundation for automation is the collection and maintenance of data. Have you ever wondered why “big data” and “datability” is such a big thing right now? Why are the companies, sitting on mountains of data doing so well? They have the data and the right ways to make it valuable for others.
If you are talking about robotics, then you already have the technology readily available waiting to become mainstream. Right now it might be mostly common for manufacturing industries to make use of that. Taking that as example, yes the robotics have taken over the work of people.
Heavy-duty and body-damaging work, to be exact. The people in these companies had and still have the opportunity to advance above the robots and train them, be engineers or help design new models with their in-depth experience and knowledge.
Is this a bad thing? I would not agree to that. Accidents can always happen but I am certain that self-driving cars, if holistically developed and deployed in smart cities, will lead to a lot less dead people than drunk driving or plain bad driving.
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
― Albert Einstein
How to prepare yourself to stay relevant?
Machines can do a great job on standard work, that does not change and is not subject to too many dynamic parameters, affecting the way the activity would be carried out. Machines can greatly help people in the future and they already do, but they don’t disrupt markets and they break no innovations. They rely on human input. They rely on creativity, review, controls, measurement and maintenance. For a machine it is not possible to replace a person. It is only possible to take over certain activities. On the other hand robots can work in hazardous environments or with toxic materials, which humans should not be exposed to.
- Machines don’t have ideas
- Machines don’t read news
- Machines don’t know the competition
- Machines don’t define
In order to stay relevant you need to keep moving, keep learning and keep improving. You need to develop skills for critical thinking and solution design. You know what will work and what won’t. Make use of your knowledge and wisdom.
Stay up to date with the news of your industry and help to improve your operations as good as you can. No business is perfect and you are one of the people who can help to shape things and make a difference. Don’t discard that option by settling on what you have. If you stop in life, life will stop on you.
- People read books or even write them
- People talk to each other and share knowledge
- People strive for self-improvement
- People get education or educate themselves
- People overdeliver beyond expectations
- People have ideas and try new ways
The stages of such a change
Most of this is going to happen in the near future, but on some ends you can already see things happening that prepare for fully automated services. Some industries are able to facilitate culture changes and adaption like these faster than others, some will take a lot longer. On average I see such endeavours to be completed within a decade.
- Pilots being carried out next to the normal operations
- Disruptive organizations will go first
- A full culture change across first world countries will be completed within ten years time
- The new thing is now normal
In my opinion, the amount of jobs will not decrease but simple jobs will vanish more and more, while other types of jobs will become more demanding and more relevant in depth and occupancy volumes. You can remain relevant and you can keep your job on top of machines, robots, and artificial intelligences, but you have to work for it and not settle for what you have and what you know.
If your job is subject to be automated, a priority should be to extend your skills and knowledge every day to remain relevant in the future.
— Christopher Isak (@ChristopherIsak) July 30, 2016
If I learned anything from the books of Michael Crichton then it’s that man made systems will always fail at some point. Experts, designers, developers and engineers will always be needed. Maybe their scope changes but they will be there and they will be humans.
Photo credit: Thomas Meier / PEO ACWA / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / RoboCup / Day Donaldson