Innovation and the impact on future jobs

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For those of us who started our careers last century, the pace of change and innovation over the past decade is astounding. After life settled down somewhat following Y2K, the first internet bubble and a heightened period of world turmoil, we are “back to the future” full steam (click here for any film fans that missed the hoverboard release a while back).

Innovations in robotics, blockchain technology, the internet of things, automation and so on is transforming our world to a point that in 20-30 years the way we live and interact within it will be a step change away from today.

So, rather than opine about where these innovations may end up, let’s have a think about one of the side effects…most notably, on jobs.

Those of us that are lucky enough to enjoy our work (and are of a certain age) are probably doing something not that dissimilar to when we left education. Indeed, when I took my first role in technology at a bank it was still considered to be “a job for life”. I could happily start planning for a life on the greasy pole and a final salary pension in a max of around 4 decades of grafting.

Fast forward to today and for those entering the employment market things are very different. That concept now seems so old fashioned. The characteristics possessed by careers of being stable, linear and mainly singular are gone. So what can the next generation of workers expected? Renowned futurist Thomas Frey of the DaVinci Institute is quoted as saying;

60% of the best jobs in the next ten years haven’t been invented yet.

This naturally has a huge impact. Careers will become a polymorphic thing, increasing in complexity, reducing in predictability and will evolve for many into a “portfolio of micro-careers”. Innovation and commoditisation will mean that being able to move laterally between roles and industries will be the norm, with an entirely different mindset and skillset being required to maintain personal “career currency”.

We are already starting to live in the world of the freelancer. Shorter term, output based contracts are on the rise with estimates that by 2020 half of all workers in the US will be freelance and even now, some 20% of UK graduates are joining the labour market in the same capacity. Assuming this trend continues, the impact on traditional employee management, such as performance, reward, culture etc. is something that organisations will need to overcome. Indeed the word “employee” may be used sparingly in favour of “workforce”.

So what are the types of jobs that we might see in the future? Here are a few examples (that 10 years ago would have been considered daft);

  • Alternative Currency Speculator: With Bitcoin and other virtual currencies gaining ground, new more complex trading asset classes will also evolve
  • 3D Printing Manager: Expert roles in 3D printing to help consumers build new or repair current physical artefacts
  • Privacy Consultant: A role to reveal vulnerabilities in an individuals personal, physical, and online security presence
  • Drone Driver: As the deployment expands outside of the military to commercial and private drone use, experienced drone drivers (especially those with urban experience) will be sought after
  • Crowdfunding Manager: A expert on sites like Kickstarter and Crowdcube who provide clients services to promote and attain funds for a project
  • Digital Death Manager: Someone who manages or eliminates some digital footprint and creates a posthumous online presence
  • Meme Agent: We know all too well that we have agents for every kind of celebrity, so in the future, even stars on internet memes will be represented

(If you want to see a list of jobs that might disappear all together (and of course find yours…), click here for a list of 101 Endangered Jobs by 2030

And what about the impact of robotics? Whilst we are indeed moving faster than predicted, the iRobot world is still round a few more corners. Not surprisingly, the area that will succumb most heavily to the rise of the machines first is manufacturing. According to the Boston Consulting Group, they predict that robots will increase the proportion of factory tasks they perform from the current 10% to 25% by 2025.

That said, already a Chinese company Hon Hai (the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer) is progressing with plans to replace 500,000 workers with robots in the next three years.

According to a number of studies, jobs that need human beings to perform them are rapidly diminishing. In its recent paper ‘Creativity vs Robots’, the innovation charity Nesta quotes research by academics Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, which suggests 47% of jobs are at risk of automation in just “a decade or two.”

The big question is how society will evolve and support a population which will gradually diminish in its importance to a self-sustaining eco system? Will we see queues of human beings alongside drones at the job centre? Or indeed, will unemployment figures actually become irrelevant with nation states measured positively by an upward trend alongside the usual economic parameters?

Who knows…but at least for the time being, I’ve still got a job to do.

 

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Posted on : 28-08-2015 | By : john.vincent | In : Innovation

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