By Athan Oparaji
The rise of automation and robotics, increasing globalization, international mobility and constant changes in consumer behavior just to mention a few are transforming societies at a high rate, making cities more sophisticated and smarter, and changing the way we work and live. Disruptions leading to uncertainties. Are humans destined for extinction from the workforce? Are we heading towards a jobless future? Or will there still be jobs for us in the future?
These uncertainties are found in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which I can relate to a layman’s understanding as the more you look the less you see, the more you try to determine the position and speed of an entity at the same time the more difficult it becomes. I have said Physics is a part of my life as written in this powerful article: How I got the important tool that screwed me into my dream;an engineer.
These uncertainties result to global debates and arguments into the discourse of our future as follows:
At the World Economic Forum, co-chaired by Stephane Kasriel, the CEO of freelancing website Upwork said to the Council on the Future of Work, Gender and Education, that Artificial intelligence could create jobs not rob us of them. According to him:
“We have heated discussions on the future impact of artificial intelligence on work and our responsibilities to help manage the change. We see that as the workforce evolves, we must finally break free from the industrial-era habits of the past to ensure a more productive and equitable future”.I see him as being optimistic about the future.
“The rise of powerful AI will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which”. — Stephen Hawking. You can see the uncertainty postulated by the renowned theoretical Physicist.
AI is “our biggest existential threat” to mankind, claims tech leader Elon Musk.
Elon Musk argues that the fast development of technology threatens to annihilate jobs and replace humans with super-intelligent machines. Being a tech giant he sees a bleak view of the future if the rise of automation is not properly managed. I understand the points of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk clearly from an engineering perspective.
Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, the man Toyota gave $1 Billion to set up a robotic lab believes it won’t be long before robots are helping us around the home, and driving us to work along with a better availability and capacity of wireless internet, computational power and data storage which could lead to a rapid growth in competence allowing robots to function at a human-level accuracy with self-autonomy. If humans would be able to co-evolve and keep up with technology that seems to be running so fast is still questionable. But right now it seems we are at par with the machines as written in one of my interesting poems: Machinations of love by Athan Oparaji, thereby risking our job for the future as implied by Jack Ma: founder of Alibaba Group and richest man in China, when he says we need to start learning about love and those things that can differentiate us from the machines.
Technology has not only become more powerful, but also a global concern, so much so that the debate around automation in the workplace has regained prominence in the past few months. By some estimates from 2017 McKinsey report on BBC NEWS, around 800 million jobs will be taken away by 2030. That means jobs and work as we know them are in danger and the exponential technology curve — Moore’s law — grows faster every year.Nearly 40 percent of jobs in the U.S. may be vulnerable to replacement by robots in the next fifteen years, according to a new study by the research firm PwC.Mar 25, 2017.How far are we from these waves of job uncertainties? This is still a puzzle to solve.
Throughout history, the issue of job displacement has ignited concern, rage and chaos. The sentiment towards technological advances is not new, the outcome of a society where jobs have been wiped out by machine entities still elicits fear, mainly because it has happened before several times in history.Yet work has never completely disappeared. It has persisted as the World Bank’s World Development Report 2019 argues that while automation displaces workers, technological innovation creates more new industries and jobs on balance.
Revolutionary transformational developments come at a price: high adaptation. The 4th industrial revolution, it’s on its way and will require some reinvention in the market and in people’s abilities to adapt to constant, fluid change as written in my poem:Life in States. Some argue that the relationship between machines and humans should focus on their mutual synergies rather than the competitive factor. In their book “Human+Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI,” Daugherty and Jim Wilson, IT execs at Accenture Research, proclaim jobs, in the not so far future, will include trainers and explainers making robots and people work alongside each other.
But, some scholars affirm that as computers get more powerful companies will have less need for some kind of workers. In “The Second Machine Age,” MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, paint a disquieting picture of the impact of automation: “technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead.
“What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?” — Yuval Harari. I’m still very concerned about the parity as written in my wonderful poem above.
Whether robots and artificial intelligence will displace a significant number of jobs over the next decades remains to be seen, but predictions about the future of work shed a disturbing light on the vast impact automation will have on employment, skills, and wages.
So the key to the solving the puzzle of uncertainty of our future will definitely be adaptability. The world and its humans are used to change and fluidity in their surroundings. There is no security in any job rather we are our job security. If we can’t control what happens on the outside, we can control what happens on the inside. We are capable of adaptation; more than we think we really are. We have strategic, innate social skills robots do not possess but not fully ready to tap from.Since the very beginning of our existence, work has been the essence and the pinnacle of our lives because we work to earn a living. It is imperative to find and foster new economic approaches to these issues in order to deal with the upcoming challenges machines will foist on our society. Governments, policymakers, and private companies will have to come up with strategies to allow humans to race ahead of technology instead of racing against it.
Therefore,Jack of all trades and master of none is the definition for the old world. My observation proves the world is dynamic and we are into the new world. With the way the world is evolving right now we will have the Jacks of all trades and the masters of all. I mean people who are the global citizens.
What the world needs right now are not rigid people but people who are flexible and versatile to adapt to any challenging situation; people who are the well-rounded beings.
Therefore, the question of the future of job now lies in ourselves as the title draws the attention of the need to utilize our talent while skill is alive for the benefit of mankind.
Ikenna Athan Oparaji is a creative picturesque writer, poet,chemical engineer and currently an asset integrity engineer at Liquid Energy Global Services Limited. He can be reached through Instagram/Twitter Handle: @AthanOparaji