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Will We Lose Our Jobs Now That Everything is Slowly Being Automated?

Technological advances has always caused an upheaval and this is an undeniable truth of human history. The creation of the printing press revolutionised the way information was disseminated and paved the path for the Reformation. Henry Ford’s assembly line threw open the gates for mass production and ended the days of the small shop. And now, the digital revolution is poised to revolutionise the global economic landscape as much as the Industrial Revolution had, if not more. With the rate technology is advancing, palpable paranoia surrounds the global job market. With so many duties digitised and automated and so many roles rendered obsolete by technology, how secure is anyone’s job?

The Robots Are Coming

The technological encroachment is already underway. Nearly half of existing jobs are expected to receive an automaton replacement, according to a 2013 American study. Self-driving transportation, the new obsession of Silicon Valley companies like Google and Uber, will edge out the need for taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and truck drivers. Internet-automated administration tasks may have made easier the life of an office administration assistant until it put him out of a job. Labour markets will suffer most with simple tasks being easily programmable. The Internet has also made it possible to do much more with infinitely less manpower. At its peak, the imaging company Kodak hired 100,000 people. In comparison, Instagram achieved its current position as the dominant photo-sharing platform with only a staff of 13.

Yet Another Reason to Stay in School

In spite of this, job prospects for the future are not completely doom and gloom. The advantage humans have over well-programmed automatons is the endless capacity to learn and adapt. And until artificial intelligence regularly pass the Turing test, that is the advantage that humans will keep. The key to surviving in a fast-changing job market is to keep learning. Never in history has it been easier to learn a new skill or a new trade. Open-learning platforms like Udemy and edX offer free classes online, teaching everything from the history of the book to Java programming. Current employers demonstrate a high preference for workers equipped with programming knowledge, so learning coding online would not be amiss in ensuring further job security. What this means is that the skilled worker requires continual education complementing Silicon Valley’s interests to thrive. But the less competitive may always rely on social skills and specialisation to retain jobs that automated tech would never be expected to replace.

Jobs Technology Won’t Be Replacing

Image credit: startupstockphotos.com

Many parties have predicted professions that will see the most growth in the coming decade. A brief glance at these lists reveals a demand for more medical practitioners, software developers, and highly-skilled specialists like engineers and accountants. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for jobs such as these. But there is also a call for daycare providers, elder care specialists and social services coordinators. Regardless of progress, technological or otherwise, human empathy is a valuable commodity and is not something technology can replicate. The arts professions also suffer no threat from the technological revolution. Automatons could not hope to replace artists, writers or actors. Jobs in the arts are competitive to begin with and already the ones parents dissuade their children from. Ironic then that these same professions are safe from redundancy by way of machine.

New Jobs on the Rise

In truth, technology is advancing and changing the previously established order at such a rate that the rest of the world beyond Silicon Valley cannot keep up. The anxiety over the future of the job market reflects that. New tech has always opened avenues to new types of professions. The introduction of electric lamps made lamplighters obsolete in the 20th century. But electricity opened up doors for plenty of other jobs such as camera technicians and switchboard operators. Similarly, plenty of high-paying jobs today did not exist thirty years ago, like SEO specialists, bloggers, and Zumba instructors. Economic pessimism only makes sense if the focus remains on an old template of the job market instead of looking forward to new opportunities.

The caveat now is that job-seekers will be required to employ creative thinking. It’s better to invent a job rather than find one as traditional careers disappear. “Today because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate…and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge,” said Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner.

New Changes, New Approach

Anxiety is the expected companion of any sort of change. The lamplighters of the 20th century feared for job security as well and the right answer was to look for a new type of job than to hold on valiantly to the old one. Technological advances and efficient automatons will make for some uncomfortable shifting in the existing job markets. Many old professions will die out. However, there will always be jobs to be had, provided that job seekers are willing to keep on learning, be a bit creative, and hang on to empathy.

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This article was written by Ng Wei Li from iPrice Group

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