Are modern technological innovations now of such intensity and scale that in the future it is likely to see fewer job opportunities across the Western world and a sharp increase in leisure time?
The disruption caused to the job market by Industry 4.0, robotisation and the rise of people-free delivery services is already well-documented. There is evidence to suggest that changes will happen on a significant socio-economical scale, compared with the sporadic technical upgrades we have seen until now. However, it raises several interesting questions: as a workforce are we ready, socially and psychologically, for an increase in leisure time? Can we learn from our own social-economic history back to the time when the steam engine or electricity was introduced? How did we manage the transformation of our workplace when the computer became a fixture in our working lives?
Work at all levels will evolve
Despite blue collar jobs and repetitive tasks being the first that will be impacted by automation, recent developments in AI such as machine learning, deep learning and natural language understanding point to a future in which white collar and even creative jobs are similarly impacted.
Automation by advanced robotics and by AI will not only affect jobs with entry-level skillset requirements. There are also economic gains to be had by reducing time spent on routine tasks and services done by more senior roles and functions. Will it become a gain for the employee who can invest more time in intellectually challenging tasks? Will it lead to people up-skilling at a faster rate? This is what we expect and more: greater efficiency at work, improved safety and accelerated career progression.
New types of jobs are arriving fast
Increased automation foreshadows the arrival a completely new landscape of jobs. As there is always a delay between adoption of new jobs and loss of current jobs, the process of up-skilling and re-skilling are going to be the keys to success in the future job market.
Although robots and AI will inevitably take a lot of the more data-driven and pattern recognition job functions, there will be change in how humans and machines interact for the highest level of efficiency.
The automation of tasks that are both repetitive and data-driven will lead to new types of jobs being created, with an emphasis on how humans and machines can work most effectively together. Colleague-robots or “cobots” will integrate in our workforces and our ‘old fashioned’ views on the difference between machine and human will have to evolve towards a workforce of co-habitation and co-operation.
We are already seeing a cultural backlash to automation, and there will be a growing need for companies to justify their recruitment processes. Human employment may well become another social responsibility metric.
Mobile, staff-less supermarkets?
Launched in June 2017 to media, the Moby Mart shows us an example of a completely automated supermarket. It is a staff-less, mobile grocery store which sells everyday household items such as bread, milk and cleaning products.
CureSkin is an AI driven mobile app that can diagnose skin conditions and advise on treatments and products. This innovation shows us how AI pattern recognition can take on the diagnostic role of dermatologists, and how easy it might be to track and monitor your health without the need of human intervention. Users upload a photo of their skin to the app which then uses AI to analyse it for issues. The app is further complimented by a chat service which feeds the AI and further enhances the machine-led value proposition.
Many hard-won professional qualifications are, some believe, on the verge of extinction. We all face a future in which economic productivity is unlinked from actual employment. In other words, is it possible for an economy to grow despite of an ever-reducing national payroll. How might this be possible?
McCann Advertising in Japan hired an artificial intelligence creative director in 2016. The AI responds to a product or message with the optimal commercial messaging based on historical data. The system disrupts our understanding of automation solely affecting blue-collar roles, showing that data-driven creativity is also a possibility. This will be particularly effective in roles which require high degrees of pattern recognition.
Universal Basic Income increasingly popular
Political responses to automation are also going to affect the future of work. With Universal Basic Income (UBI) gathering popularity following Finland's pilot - especially in Spain and Switzerland - the future workforce may not need to work the same hours or in the same working conditions as they currently to meet their basic needs.
What are the key trends and how are they likely to impact the future of work? We explore the following future trends: