How Automation Might Save Your Career

Could the age of automation see us no longer define ourselves by our work, while at the same time usher in a new age of productivity and prosperity?

By: Michael McQueen

Automation is a word that often strikes fear into workers who cannot help but feel threatened by its emergence in the modern world. Most of what we hear about automation surrounds the ways it will take our jobs and force the everyday worker into irrelevance.

However, there are many ways in which automation will work wonders for our jobs, ways of working and our economy.

Here are 3 key ways automation will change the way you work in the future. It will give you:

1. A new job

‘Technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. Steam engines destroyed jobs … but enabled an explosion of manufacturing. Cars killed trolleys but enabled hundreds of millions of new jobs. Vacuums and washing machines destroyed jobs for ‘domestic engineers’ but freed women to enter the much more productive paid workforce,’ states the author of Eat People, Andy Kessler.[1]

While technology will certainly wave goodbye to many of the jobs we are used to, the jobs it will open up will be ones we have never even heard of and will be abundant in comparison to the jobs we have now.

To give an idea of just how many opportunities new technology could create, consider how many new jobs and how much new wealth Apple’s App Store has created since its inception in 2008. Within seven years of its launch, the App Store was generating $100 billion in revenues: more than the entire film industry.[2]

Some of the jobs that will be birthed in the coming years include:[3]

  • 3D organ printer technician
  • neural augmentation specialist
  • bio-identity manager
  • neuromarketing manager
  • tele-presence events manager
  • virtual worlds entertainment producer
  • chief trust officer
  • nanobot programmer
  • bionic interface designer

Who knows what your job might look like in the coming years!

2. A better job

When looking at the nature of our future work, the question celebrated writer and economic theorist Scott Santens poses is one worth pausing to reflect on: ‘No one should be asking what we’re going to do if computers take our jobs – we should all be asking what we get to do once freed from them.’[4]

Santens’s question echoes a similar sentiment expressed by the great economist Adam Smith in 1776: ‘The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding.’[5]

Put more simply, as robots free us from doing much of what we’ve described for centuries as ‘normal everyday work’, will we humans have the capacity to become more human and less robotic?

Could it be possible that the age of automation sees us adapt as humans to no longer define ourselves by our work – while at the same time ushering in a new age of productivity and prosperity?

Think of the prospects for work satisfaction as machines take over a greater share of the dull routine jobs many of us dread. If current automation trends continue, low-skill workers will take on more stimulating and satisfying human tasks at work, and as many as 62 per cent of them will be happier in their jobs by 2030 compared with today.[6] Further still, could automation even see the working week shortened, much as it was reduced from seven to five days in the last century?[7]

One can only hope!

3. A more flexible job

Beyond simply a new job or a more satisfying job, could even the very notion of having a ‘job’ be something that disappears in the years ahead?

Consider the forecast that by 2025, 45 per cent of the U.S. labour market will be made up of ‘contingent’ workers.[8]

Jeremy Rivkin in The End of Work suggests a long-term future where only about 20 per cent of the current workforce are in traditional employment.

Many of the other 80 per cent of individuals in the labour market will likely be freelancers who are available to work anywhere in the world on demand. This is sometimes called the human cloud. If you have ever used UpWork, Freelancer or Fiverr, you have benefited from the early stages of this trend. As of a couple of years ago, Upwork had an estimated 10 million freelancers from 180 countries on its database who compete for approximately 3 million tasks or projects each year.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is another powerful example of the human cloud at work. The Mechanical Turk has over 500,000 ‘turkers’ from 190 countries available to take work requests at any time. McKinsey estimates that by 2025 some 540 million workers will have used a platform like these to find work.[9]

Guy Standing, a professor of economics at the University of London, points out that it is not just unskilled, low-level labour that is being done online. ‘It goes all the way up: legal services, medical diagnosis, architectural services, accounting – it’s affecting the whole spectrum.’[10]

This new kind of job experience will be even more prominent in the Post-COVID world that will soon emerge. As we have all been forced to engage with an autonomous kind of work that bears resemblance to the modern gig economy, it is likely that this will become core to our new normal. Autonomous and freelance work will have an even stronger position in the regular economy and will be far more common for the everyday worker.

Maybe automation will take your job, but if it does, it will also open options to you that you probably never considered, possibly freeing you up to do the job you wanted in the first place – it may just save your career!

Article supplied with thanks to Michael McQueen.

About the Author: Michael is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

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