It's a bird...It's a plane...It's…the wave of the next Industrial Revolution, and it’s here to change the way we think about our jobs and the future economy.
Imagine looking out at the beautiful ocean sky, laying in the sand, and enjoying yourself as usual. Suddenly, out of nowhere, tsunami-like waves quickly begin to approach the shore. Now, in this situation, there are three types of people. Person #1 has their headphones in, enjoying themselves - not a care in the world. Person #2 see’s the wave, panics, and runs to the nearest place of safety. Person #3 sees the wave, assesses the situation, and develops a plan that will enable them to survive the inevitable. Understandably, many workers fall into the category of Person #1. Many people are distracted by the positive and beneficial effects of technology, that often times, the threats that it poses gets overlooked. My goal is to inspire you to think like Person #3 and assess, plan, and attack this new wave head-on. However, if you need more persuasion, check out fellow SnoQap writers, Andrew Montalti (Why Even Economists Aren’t Safe From Automation) and Nick Colletta (Automation - An Amateur's Economic Proposal, articles on this subject. Both articles dive deeper into other causes, effects, and possible solutions for dealing with this new wave.
So, what exactly is this tsunami-like wave that’s coming?
According to the World Economic Forum (WEC), we are currently living in the beginning stages of the “4th Industrial Revolution.” What does this mean? If you remember, the 1st Industrial Revolution was powered by innovations of water and steam power to mechanize basic production processes. The 2nd was pioneered by electric power to create mass production. The 3rd used electronics and information technology to automate certain processes and productions. Now, the 4th Industrial Revolution is building on the 3rd, but at a much more rapid pace and with much more powerful innovations. When compared with the previous industrial revolutions, the 4th is expected to evolve at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Previous Industrial Revolutions progressed at a pace where businesses, governments, and consumers could adapt and leverage those new advances to make their jobs more efficient. But today, in the 4th industrial revolution, we are living in an era where technology is growing at a rate faster than most people can adapt to.
Already, we can see that artificial intelligence (AI) is manifesting itself into powerful technological advances - from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that can have a conversation with you, translate between languages, or even invest actual money. Notable progress has been made in AI in recent years - and its growth is being powered by exponential increases in computing power and the availability of immense amounts of data. Some examples include: IBM’s Watson, which has gone from the world’s “Jeopardy’’ champion to becoming a powerful tool used in industries like healthcare, finance, entertainment, and retail. Watson helps connect businesses more easily with their customers by making sense of big data. Google’s DeepMind is on a mission to make machines capable of learning complex things on their own. Rethink Robotics Baxter “the industrial robot,” has proven to automate a wide range of tasks – from line loading and machine tending to packaging and material handling. AI has the potential to completely change the world, and subsequently, our jobs as we know it.
Research suggests that the 4th Industrial Revolution has the magnitude to disrupt almost every industry worldwide. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or entirely displacing others. The new skill sets required will transform industries and how and where people work. In its “Future of Jobs Report”, the WEC states that 65% of children entering elementary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. That’s roughly 15 years from now until those children will enter the job market and compete in ways we’re not accustomed to. For most people, 15 years from now will still be prime working years. To add more fuel to the fire, the WEC estimates that 47% of today’s jobs are susceptible to computerization in the near future. That is nearly half of all the jobs that we know today.
So, what does this mean?
Because we are living in a rapidly evolving and cloudy employment landscape - the ability to anticipate, prepare, and strategize for future jobs and skills requirements is becoming increasingly critical for individuals, businesses, and governments. It is essential for us to prepare in order to give ourselves the ability to fully seize the opportunities that are obtainable by this new wave - and to mitigate the undesirable outcomes. But it isn’t all doom-and-gloom. Technology has the power to destroy jobs, but also create newer, more efficient, and higher paying jobs – or transform old ones. While it is hard to accurately predict the specific skills workers will, one skill that we will always need - is the ability to continually learn new things.
But, what does this all really mean?
It means that the 4th Industrial Revolution will affect how we develop our careers and cultivate our skills going forward. We are unfortunately living in a time where a lot of people will be unemployed because of their inability to adapt to technology’s rapid advancements. It is clear from the abundance of data that momentous change is underway. Ultimately, our actions today will determine whether that change results in massive displacement of workers or the emergence of new opportunities.
But, neither technology nor the disruption that comes with it, is such a force that humans cannot control. If you are aware, you’re at an advantage. The trends show that the workers of the future will need to be tech-savvy-critical thinking problem solvers with an abundance of people skills. The WEC outlines two major job functions that are primed for success in the new age of employment. The first are data analysts and market researchers. The WEC states that data analysts and market researchers will be used by private and public institutions to help derive strategic analysis from the massive amounts of data that is generated by these technological disruptions. The second are specialized sales representatives. Every industry will need to be skilled in commercializing and explaining its products to both institutions and consumers. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills also cannot be automated. Well paid and secure jobs will go to people with solid analytic and interactive abilities.
During previous industrial revolutions, it often took decades to build the training systems needed to develop new skill sets on a large scale. But, we don’t have decades this time. The WEC states that “Given the upcoming pace and scale of disruption brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, waiting, is simply not an option. Without targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and to build a workforce with future-proof skills - governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base.”
Clearly, The World Economic Forum is warning us that the wave of the 4th Industrial Revolution is here and striking at all angles. So, plan accordingly and face it head-on or run for safety.
Harris, P. (2015). Retrieved from http://careers.workopolis.com/advice/career-trending-where-the-jobs-will-be-through-2020-and-beyond/
Schwab, K. (2016). World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/
The Economists. (2014). The future of jobs. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21594264-previous-technological-innovation-has-always-delivered-more-long-run-employment-not-less
World Economic Forum. (2016). Retrieved from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOJ_Executive_Summary_Jobs.pdf
World Economic Forum. (2017). Retrieved from http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/employment-trends/