The future of our jobs/careers is uncertain and nebulous. No one can see into the future and predict with any accuracy and certainty what is going to happen in the workplace, and how much robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and any other enhanced technologies that might develop, will alter it. We are all hoping it does so for the better and not for the worse!
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) developed a concept of four coloured worlds - red, yellow, blue and green - in close association with the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at the Said Business School in Oxford. The aim was “to develop a map of the factors that were influencing business and those that would become more influential in the future.”
They also surveyed 10,000 people in India, China, Germany, the UK and the US, and have tried to come up with some answers, on how we all may need to build up our skill-sets to keep up with the technological changes in 2030. So what moves do we have to make? Are they big leaps or small incremental steps?
The report recommends that people/organisations make bets that they don’t have regrets about. Take a bigger leap and start seeing the technology challenges that need to be overcome and own this debate instead of fighting the inevitable. Also, start a conversation about the future with employees who are, understandably, worried about whether they will have jobs a decade from now. To allay anxiety, they need to know that organisations will protect people and not jobs, as they were, because redundancy will make itself known. So people will have to become adaptable, agile and polish their skills and retool themselves, or acquire new ones. At least, 74 percent are willing to learn new skills or learn retrain completely, to prepare for this new reality.
Some key trends
A PwC report has looked into this issue in depth and foreseen some ‘megatrends’, that both people and organisations will have to be nimble enough to sail through.
Those trends are: Technological advancement, demographics, urbanisation (by 2030, UN projects 4.9 billion people will live in cities), power shifts will occur between developed and developing countries and within every country too, because rich and poor will face off and the middle class may diminish significantly, and finally there will be scarcity of energy and water that will need to be overcome.
Despite this, the people surveyed by PwC were optimistic about their future. As many as 73 percent didn’t feel threatened that technology will replace the human mind. I feel the same way too. The human mind understands nuances that artificial intelligence will take a long while to figure out. And anyway, everything has to be coded into these ‘inventions’ by a human brain. Right now, my computer despite having spell-check can’t tell British spellings from American spellings! So there is a long way to go for the human brain to be put into cold storage. But 37 percent are worried about losing their jobs to automation. This is up from 33 percent in 2014.
Automation cannot be stopped
But automation is the way of the future and it can’t be stopped. It shouldn’t be either, but must be managed very prudently. There is the question of data being collected that should also be handled with care, as opposed to say, how Facebook is handling data. It’s perennial leaks, hacks and bugs have made it look like a leaky tap, and lately, Mark Zuckerberg is always testifying in some Senate inquiry about something or the other, rather than running his business. So that is not how businesses will want to operate. In fact, there are three types of artificial intelligence that might be deployed:
Assisted Intelligence:The GPS in our car is a good example of this.
Augmented Intelligence:The car-ride sharing business would not exist without a bunch of programmes helping out simultaneously. This is still an emerging field where both human beings and machines collaborate to make decisions. But the aim is to imbue the machinery with “uniquely human traits – emotional intelligence, creativity, persuasion, innovation – and become more valuable”, stated the report.
Autonomous Intelligence;This when machines are programmed to work without human intervention. Eg: Self-driving cars. They become adaptive and take over decision-making from humans. This is when people can start to fear for their jobs.
It’s not technology alone that will influence the way the workplace evolves. It is also human dynamics that will do so. So individualism versus collectivism will come to the fore. Integration versus fragmentation will also be an issue for businesses. Are the big businesses going to consolidate and have brands that hold away across the nation, even more than the government does? Or will smaller size firms become the norm. The kind who do social good along with making money and using technology to keep their overheads low.
Colours of workPwC, for ease of explanation, has marked these schisms into four distinct colours of work.
- The yellow world is the do-gooder one. Here human beings come first and search for meaning has relevance. Community businesses will thrive with crowdfunded brands sprouting up that are ethical.
- In the red world, innovation outpaces regulation and organisations and individuals race to meet consumer demands, thereby creating niche profit-makers. These innovations will get a huge amount of recognition via digital/social platforms. Specialists will thrive.
- The green world is about companies caring about the environment as much as they do about their bottom line. They care about demographic changes and sustainability is at the core of all actions that they take to make money.
- The blue world is where big organisations grow bigger and individualism trumps community/social responsibility. But here the danger is that people might be monitored quite a bit, so that the data that is accumulated can be used to predict performance and anticipate risk.
The blue and green worlds are already in progress. Red and yellow were considered radical at one point, because red was too aggressive and yellow was too focused on doing social good but today, as things are, it could play out either way. The PwC reported stated, “Those organisations and individuals that understand potential futures, and what each might mean for them, and plan ahead, will be the best prepared to succeed.”
According to the survey, “70 percent would consider using treatments to enhance their brain and body if this improved employment prospects in the future.” On the other hand, 23 percent of people stated that doing a job that makes a difference to someone/thing is very important to their career. Meanwhile, 25 percent of respondents stated that their ideal employer is an organisation whose values match their own.
CEOs who were surveyed stated in the report that 52 percent of them are “already exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together and 39 percent are considering the impact of AI on their future skills needs – the majority (52 percent) were also planning to increase headcount in the coming 12 months.”
But finding the right skills has become the biggest threat to their business, and they are looking for people who have these attributes, most of which, can’t really be taught in any school/course, like: problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, creativity and innovation.Manali Rohinesh is a freelance writer who explores financial andnon-financial subjects that pique her interest.
Published Date: Nov 21, 2019 06:11 AM | Updated Date: Nov 20, 2019 08:11 PM IST