The Automation Devastation

Friday, October 18, 2019 - 09:50
AIM Blog The Automation Devastation

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) estimates that 14% of existing jobs could be destroyed as a result of automation within the next two decades.

A scary thought for sure, but what is particularly frightening about this statistic is that, as OCED themselves recognise, it is significantly lower than what other researchers have suggested. In fact, bleaker predictions say nearly half of all jobs will disappear.

One of the primary factors in this prediction is the ageing population. In 2015, there were 28 people aged 65+ for every 100 people of working age, and this ratio is calculated to double by 2050. With a growing shortage of entry-level employees that are technologically literate, there will be greater pressure on organisations to invest in automated processes.

Further compounding this challenge is the fact that low-level workers, those most susceptible to changes to the work landscape, are 40% less likely to participate in training than those who have high-level qualifications. In other words, the people most likely to be negatively affected by automation are the least likely to develop skills needed to find new employment.

This type of sudden and radical change, while confronting, is in no way unprecedented. Simply look back to the previous industrial revolutions that we have experienced: the rise of mass production through powered assembly lines in the late 19th century led to the dissolution of many small manufacturers, and in turn many of these factory workers lost their jobs with the advent of automated, robotic production lines in the second half of the 20th century. The only difference today is that while before it was the manual labourer whose job was lost, now it is the digital worker who is at risk.

While history clearly demonstrates the disruptive power of evolving technologies, it also reveals a significant silver lining: technological advancement inevitably leads to the creation of new-to-world jobs. For instance, the advent of robotic manufacturing created the need for technicians, mechanics, and software developers in a variety of industries. This is why the neutral term “disruption” is used so frequently, as this change is neither explicitly negative or positive, just change.

We stand on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a period experts say will be defined by the ways in which technology is embedded within society and our own human bodies, such as through genome editing and the use of cryptographic methods in governance.

All industrial revolutions both generate and destroy jobs, but what makes this time different is, more so than ever, we possess the power of hindsight. Knowing change is occurring that will significantly disrupt how organisations operate and what occupations exist, it is imperative that individuals prepare themselves. This means researching whether their work is at risk of being automated, and if it is, what future skills can they acquire to remain relevant in the workforce.

Change is like a rip at the beach; it’s only dangerous if you fight against it.