At the core of Michigan Future’s work has been the belief that globalization and technology are mega forces that are and will continue to transform the economy. And that both are more powerful by orders of magnitude than policy or politics. That means, as we explored previously, that more and more work that humans have done in the past––at all skill levels––are going to become obsolete.
In a terrific article for Wired Kevin Kelly details the extent that machines are likely to destroy current jobs/occupations. The article is entitled Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs. Kelly writes:
It may be hard to believe, but before the end of this century, 70 percent of today’s occupations will likewise be replaced by automation. Yes, dear reader, even you will have your job taken away by machines. In other words, robot replacement is just a matter of time. This upheaval is being led by a second wave of automation, one that is centered on artificial cognition, cheap sensors, machine learning, and distributed smarts. This deep automation will touch all jobs, from manual labor to knowledge work.
Kelly is an optimist in terms of what this means for humans. That we will dream up new, more rewarding and higher paid work for humans to do. He writes:
This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines. Most of what you do will not be possible without them. And there will be a blurry line between what you do and what they do. You might no longer think of it as a job, at least at first, because anything that seems like drudgery will be done by robots.
We need to let robots take over. They will do jobs we have been doing, and do them much better than we can. They will do jobs we can’t do at all. They will do jobs we never imagined even needed to be done. And they will help us discover new jobs for ourselves, new tasks that expand who we are. They will let us focus on becoming more human than we were.
Others are not so sure. Predicting a future with fewer and lower paying jobs. No one really knows whether the economy will produce enough new jobs to replace those that have been automated away.
What is clear is that how we construct a successful career will look, for nearly all of us, a lot more like rock climbing than ladder climbing. There will be fewer and fewer career ladders where there are linear, known steps up that allow one to be prosperous over a long career. Rather those that succeed will be able to identify both the challenges and opportunities brought on by constantly smarter machines and have the agility and skills to take advantage of new opportunities.