The Robotization topic has moved from moved from tech unconferences to boardrooms to factories and warehouses. Organizations are implementing the Robotization use cases across the industries. And this is happening fast along with machine learning and improvements in artificial learning.
Recently, I visited one of the largest milk dairies and saw that less than 15% of employees are employed as compared to previous few years. The control center did not even have a machine – if things go wrong, it will have start an alarm. McKinsey has predicted that within eight years, one-third trucks on the road will be self-driving trucks. So, will the truck-driver be an anachronism? (Truck driver is one of the most common jobs in the US with 3.5 million people in US.)
Robotization is for real. How will its spread impact jobs? Already people are suffering from unemployment and discontent across major economies which have created political challenges. Will this create further joblessness? Will this lead to more Occupy Wallstreet? Will self-driving trucks render drivers without work? Will politicians stop targeting immigrants and target robots for job losses? Will it raise the case for universal basic income or profit-sharing policies? Will it create new public policies?
Lot of important questions are to be answered. On the other hand, there is a fear psychosis being created – ‘Half of the jobs will be lost to robots’, ‘Robots will take over jobs by 2025’, etc., etc. How do we address these wrong fears?
One more important thing, this time the robotisation of work will eat into more knowledge-based jobs as compared to low skill jobs alone. Accounts jobs can be taken by software. Robot-advisors will help with portfolio planning and investment decisions. Robotization and AI can threaten best of the jobs! Uber already raises invoices automatically, classifies it as a business or personal expense and send it to you. The software can receive these invoices and file them electronically.
So, since the white-collar jobs are at stake, there are more predictions of doom and gloom. But one needs to understand that automation and process improvements have always existed. The invention of the steam engine to the wheel to robots – all are the part of same technological progress. Technology has always been a net creator of jobs.
Of course, there are short term challenges but in the long run, everyone is better off. It will create opportunities and help reskilling of people. It will drive employees to high-value jobs and force skill upgrades. Data scientist, creative visualizer, UX expert, social media guru, search engine optimization etc. are the new jobs. As IBM CEO Ginni Romety quoted, the future of job creation is no longer white collar vs blue collar – its new collar. Or there is no collar, only hoodies
Robotization is not be feared but to be celebrated. It frees us from high risk and day-to-day drudgery. It allows us to do more meaningful work. It helps us to evolve as a society. Of course, we need to make more decisions as a society and control our destiny. How much automation is good? What skills do we value? How should people spend their time outside of jobs? If they are working less, how do they live a more fulfilling life? What is the new definition of a job? Will the world economic production be on auto-pilot while we are working on creative and imaginative high-touch passions? Will we move to artisan and creative industries? Will it lead to more self-actualization?
How do you deal with the new normal? How do you get ready for the Robo Revolution?
1. Accept the change. Do not fight it or challenge the change – it is a futile effort.
2. Burn the box. Discard the status quo. Work on cultivating new skills. Problem-solving, creativity, judgment, team skills, digital and social skills will be never out of fashion.
3. Invest few hours every day in the emerging technologies – it will give you the headstart. Organisations will support the change-agents and people willing to upgrade.
4. Start small on new skills and emerging technologies. Work on small projects. Create new modules and build on the success.
5. Create learning groups and share the journey – difficult questions, fears, hacks, tips etc. It is much easier when we are together.
6. New processes and new styles of working will also create new opportunities. Identify those. Have a break-through idea or a radical thought – build on it.
7. Finally, do not panic. If you have good work ethic, are disciplined and willing to change, things will be fine. This too shall pass.
Academia, organization, society and governments have an important role to play to prepare the talent for right skills for the future. Training and collaborative approach is a must to avoid mass unemployment and skills gaps. That alone will help people to be more confident for the future and allow everyone to work to their competitive best.
What more can we do? How can we live where robots rule? I have asked my robot assistant to research on this and come back on the topic.