Will A Machine Take Your Job?

Discussions about the effects of technology on jobs stretch back to 19th century England and the Industrial Revolution. But the topic is back on the agenda, as technology looms once again to threaten jobs.

Predictions

Predictions range from those who believe major upheaval and job losses are already taking place to those who suggest sufficient numbers of new jobs will be created to replace any losses.

There is little doubt that the current wave of technology in the form of artificially intelligent driven machine learning is causing major disruption.

Nevertheless, it is hard to say with any degree of certainty how many jobs are affected or how many will be lost in the future.

In reality, jobs are already being lost as the algorithms that drive the automation of many processes are replacing the need for people.

The fact that artificial intelligence and machines are learning from each other and from the data they collect at incredible speeds is of great concern.

The results of unleashing such technological power are difficult to predict but it’s reasonable to assume they will have a significant effect on the nature of work and the number of jobs.

It is also reasonable to assume there will continue to be a demand for the jobs only humans, rather than smart equations, can do.

The real difficulty is that there may not be enough human-friendly occupations and so the number of positions available across sectors will fall.

When that happens it will be the first time in history that economies around the world fail to create enough employment to sustain their populations.

Access to capital

Another way for people to earn income is to accumulate capital, which can be used to live without worry in a world of increasingly intelligent machines.

The difficulty, of course, is that the ownership of capital rests in relatively few hands and excludes large parts of the population who must work to live.

The solution is to reorganise society in a way that allows better choices about the effects of technology and people’s lack of access to capital.

Current issues for consideration include the need to decide about the sharing economy and, for instance, Uber and Airbnb’s effects on the taxi and accommodation industries.

The legislative choices made by government on such issues will determine specific instances of jobs losses and capital reallocation.

People power and frustration may force governments to legislate for a more protective approach but the best way to thrive is to understand how machines are hollowing out millions of jobs and be prepared.

So, it’s time to think about the type of society we want at a time when an increasing number of jobs are carried out by machines in all their forms.