About 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years, according to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte.
The Boston Consulting Group predicts that within 10 years, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots.
What about your job?
There’s an interesting website from the BBC where you can type your job title into the search box to find out the likelihood that it could be automated within the next two decades.
This has implications for everyone especially how young people are taught (at school and university) and how the rest of us manage our careers.
The Future of the Professions
Last Sunday I went to a talk by Richard and Daniel Susskind, authors of ‘The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts’
They paint a bleak picture … gaining entry to professions (Law, Banking, Stockbroking) used to be the start of a well-paid career but their research describes how changes in technology can lead to us losing our expertise.
For example, instead of going to see a lawyer, disputes can be settled by computerised online resources and we will view visiting a doctor as strange when technological resources allow a depth of analysis to identify our health problems and lead to a more robust outcome.
Doctors currently use robots to help with key hole surgery, but diagnosis could soon be done by computer. IBM’s supercomputer Watson is working with 12 hospitals in the US, and e.g. their vision software is also helping to spot early-stage skin cancers. The results are better than humans.
Robot traders can make decisions about when to buy and sell, but a thousand times faster than any human can, but they can also screw up leading to massive losses.
We are used to robotics being used in factories, now the first robot-only factory (owned by Sehnzhen Evenwin Precision Technology) is being built in China’s Dongguan factory city with a goal to reduce the current workforce of 1,800 by 90%. Foxconn, who make the iPhone aim to have 30% of workers as robots within 5 years.
How do we compete with technology?
As technology takes over decision making we need to focus on the areas where computers are less effective – such as our interpersonal (human) skills. Although even this can be susceptible to change when computer programmes can read the emotions on a face more accurately than people. That may take time though so for now it’s sensible to focus on developing technology or areas considered ‘high touch’ such as personal services and sport and entertainment.
Will we still have jobs?
It’s going to be less about jobs and more about understanding strengths. When I work with clients to help them identify possible career choices I include an understanding of natural ability using a 3-hour test – The Highlands Ability Battery and this includes a list of careers. But it’s not just saying e.g. you should be an Engineer, Accountant or Interior Designer, but to look at underlying abilities, in my case my strong organisational ability and idea generation help me by an effective career psychologist but could equally be used in something else.
It’s the focus on underlying skills and what makes us different, the tasks we can do effortlessly that will help us to deal with a changing world of work. Along with an eye to the future and identifying what is coming up and taking advantage of opportunities. Wanting the status quo won’t keep you marketable.
So what could you do and what do I tell my children?
With an ageing population jobs could include being an elderly well-being consultant, who specialises in personalised care for older patients, or a memory augmentation surgeon who helps counter memory loss and many more
There’s a brilliant Canadian website which provides details on jobs for the future and you can access it here:
and a BBC article makes some suggestions of career options:
- World of Warcraft ‘arena boosting’
- The social media manager
- The image improver
Will we like the future?
It’s going to be a different world, not in my lifetime perhaps but certainly for my grandchildren.
In their much-debated book The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argued that “Technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead … there’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”
We can be moving to a time where there is a vast difference between people doing menial work and others who own the technology, leading to challenges for Government. It’s all very well having technological solutions to product development but who will have the money to buy what is made?
And finally, for today, a video of how life could be like for the children of today
I’ve posted this on LinkedIn and it’s generated some good replies:
It is not about the robots, yet the human greediness for money.
Yes – it is humans that create the robots and technological solutions and money is a key driver – if greater consideration was given to social issues how would things change?
We’ll likely have to focus more on client based vs. company brand jobs. Freelancing is also going to continue to explode as very niche markets are liable to develop.
Yes, you are probably right, we need to be ready to seize these opportunities
For sure, it’s a really nice question! We have to create new job to understand this new kind of tech and how to use it on a good way!
Yes, look for the possibilities and see some of the new jobs that will be created, making sure we have the right skills and attitude to be successful in them
No need to worry about future robot technology, robots will be managed by us.
But how many of us will be needed, we know many factories now have very few staff compared to 10 or more years ago
Future technology may create just as many jobs as it eliminates. Perhaps whole new industries. One example may be drones.
Yes, I think there will be many new jobs created and some of the links within my article provide a great number of new possibilities
The talk I went to and the book – The future of the professions says there is much more about our work that can be automated, so yes we need to look for ways to ensure the human element is required. Alongside advances in technology what can we do to remain a few steps ahead and to offer greater value
Humans are quickly becoming expendable. make way for the next stage of evolution.
That does seem a very dystopian future, and lets hope things progress in a more positive way
While I understand the points they are making, I believe they underestimate how much some of the professions they consider to be easily automated involve professional judgment and are not just something that can so easily be reduced to an algorithm. For example, they say lawyers could be replaced by an online resource. This is true if you think that resolving a legal dispute simply involves looking at the facts and applying the law to those facts. Many times there is an element of ambiguity that requires human judgment to resolve. Things are often of one nature in form but another in substance as well. For example, you could structure the form of a financial transaction to meet all of a certain criteria so that it falls within a desired category, but a human could see through that if the substance was different than the form. Don’t get me wrong they could be correct, but I just think many of these predictions about how easily a job will be automated are made by people who don’t fully understand what’s involved with the job. Now if we are talking about a fully functioning electronic model of the human brain that’s another thing, but I think that is more than 20 years out. We were supposed to have flying cars by now too, haha.
While automation is becoming more widespread it is important to consider the value of human innovation and judgement. These qualities will never be supplanted by any degree of automation. There will be automation of otherwise menial and highly repetitive tasks and to fear automation of those is to lower the value of human intelligence.
I remember being told about all the leisure I would have! I wonder how technology will develop and if it progresses way beyond how we imagine it, but like you i think it will take more than 15 years
People like products that are hand-made and one of a kind. Manufacturing of products decreases the human quality of how things are made. It works for building, houses, cars, planes, anything that requires reading blueprints and specs. I believe the retail trends are moving toward custom and unique products. That is why more and more products are recycled and reused to develop products that are not mass-produced.
Yes, I think there will always be a need for what is hand crafted and unique and I hope as an artist you have much success.
It is estimated that today’s children will be working until they are 100 and are likely to have 40 different jobs and up to 10 different careers during that time. This article (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/angry-birds-talent-management-advice-from-6-year-old-wendy-melville?trk=prof-post ) looks at what skills will be most useful for the workforce of the future facing competition from robots and AI and juggling their portfolio careers.
I can see similarities in both our articles, and it’s your child, and my grandchild! who will grow up with a very different view of the world. Did you watch the video above? I intend to share with my 5 year old granddaughter as we talk about jobs and money.
In future. Unemployment will be at high risk because many people will be layoff their job.
And who will buy the goods if many of us lose our jobs. I wonder what the future will actually be like?
What an age of algorithms herald is an age of entrepreneurship, fortune favours the bold, as always!
I agree Michael, look for the opportunities in the changing situation