It is undeniable to anyone who owns a smartphone that we are in the midst of a technological revolution, and have been so for some time. But what is more significant is that we are now moving into a new phase of development of this ‘Third Industrial Revolution’, one that will fundamentally transform the way that we live and work.
During the first Industrial Revolution, steam engines that drove the machines of industry were powered by coal and in the second Industrial Revolution these machines were powered by electricity. Today the fuel is digital technology and it will increasingly be driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) which will, in turn, relentlessly drive technological disruption over the next 10-15 years.
Think driverless taxis, driverless HGV’s, robots and drones. Such technologies will forever change the employment landscape for future generations to come and the uncomfortable truth may be that many of us will end up losing our jobs and find it very hard to get another one.
A report by PwC1 last year suggested that up to 30% of UK jobs could be at high risk of automation by the early 2030’s with the majority of these falling within transportation and storage (56%), manufacturing (46%) and wholesale and retail (44%). Not entirely surprising given that these sectors provide the lowest level of customer service provision, which is by far the hardest to automate.
It won’t all be bad news though. There will undoubtedly be great benefits to the level of productivity of each employee, consumers should also benefit from cheaper products and services. There should also be good news for women who tend to work more in sectors that require a higher level of education and social skills, which are less susceptible to automation.
The facilitation of greater job flexibility will also benefit both employees and employers (through reduced staff turnover). People will also be more freely able to monetarise their possessions by hiring out their car, parking space or property. There will also be an increase in employment opportunities in sectors related to this ‘Disruption Revolution’ such as tech industries and bespoke personal services.
Ultimately, however, this may result in a future where there are increasing disparities between those of us that have a higher level of education and those that don’t. One where vast swathes of the population are living on a government provided universal basic income, with no requirement to ever look for employment.
Sadly, this future may be closer than any of us would like to believe as the effects of technological disruption are usually very quick to be realised. And the sooner we all prepare for this new age, through better education and saving for this possible future, the better off we will be.
- 4 – Will robots steal our jobs? The potential impact of automation on the UK and other major economies
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