Will you be replaced by a robot?

The headlines are scary: 850,000 public sector jobs to be lost through automation; 7 million jobs to be lost worldwide through technology. But haven’t we been here before with this one? The Luddite Movement started it all in the 19th century, then we had mechanisation on the farm, followed by the death of the printed word when PC’s came storming in. Only one thing is for sure and that is the world of work will keep changing due to technology.

Can all jobs be automated? Will it just be the unskilled and semi-skilled who lose out? Or just those repetitive and predictable roles? Ask a technology expert and I am sure they will say that we are all at risk.

Since 2000 it seems that the pace of change has accelerated with a radical transformation in the traditional world of work where ‘human’ jobs have been replaced by technology – even the humble call centre is not immune as software can now answer your calls and questions with a ‘human voice’ that ‘predicts’ what you are going to say – creepy!

Certainly, the pattern of employment, leisure time and consumer spending will continue to change – until fifteen years ago productivity and employment went hand in hand; today in the Western economies productivity is increasing due to technology and not employment growth. A downside of all this technology and automation is lower wages resulting in an interesting paradox – ‘workers’ have more time but less money to spend which results in a lower demand for the goods being produced!

Obviously new types of jobs will be created that we haven’t even thought of yet – across bioscience, genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological changes – but these will not be enough to cover those that are lost. However, it seems that the jury is still out on the real impact on employment – machines need to be designed, built and maintained – as well as replaced when they are obsolete – and humans will be needed to show other humans how to use the machines and so it goes on…hopefully.

And the impact on your career and business? You will need to take a much more proactive approach to your career development, and that of your workforce, and be prepared to take on continuous learning and even change roles and sectors more often as technology replaces you. A portfolio career? Most probably, as you will need to have digital-age literacy to keep up with the new and different kinds of jobs that will be created. 

A good bet will be in creative, design, inventive thinking and entrepreneurial roles which a machine can’t easily replace.