The saying the future is a foreign country, they do things differently there, seems to be the theme of the latest World Economic Forum Report on the future of jobs.
It is estimated in the report that: 65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new job types and functions that currently don’t yet exist.
The report suggests that developments in a number of key areas are going to be the ones to deeply affect our life, particularly in the areas of:
- Artificial Intelligence
- 3D printing
They will do this by building on and amplifying each other to create a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen, otherwise known as the Fourth Revolution. These developments are going to have an enormous impact on every single area of life, from the home, to manufacturing and the economy.
Like all revolutions, we’ll see both enormous challenges and opportunities for growth. The Fourth Revolution is going to be particularly significant, because not only will the future be a foreign country, our future selves are going to be complete and utter strangers.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution comes on the tail end of the third revolution, which was characterised by the emergence of new communication technologies and the digitalisation of everything, including social interactions and government administration.
However, a very important distinction to make about the fourth revolution is the transcendence of the real world with the technological world. Scope, velocity, impact are scaling at a rate that has no historical precedent … it is developing at an exponential rate, rather than a linear rate.
What this means is that while other revolutions have significantly affected lots of industries and cultures, this revolution is projected to disrupt almost every industry in every country.
Skilled labour: Rise of the robots
One of the overarching themes of the reports, is that manual labour will give way to skilled labour. This battle between machines and man is not a new one at all; it’s been happening since the industrial revolution. What will make this change so marked is the aforementioned magnitude and speed of change: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. It is so marked that the report estimates that in the next few years over 5.1 million jobs will vanish. This will be across lots of industries, but it is particularly marked in transportation, with the rising sophistication of smart cars and automated factories.
This has the potential to do exacerbate the extremes in classes by disintegrating the middle-class. And for the first time, this isn’t just in industries like manufacturing and construction. Artificial intelligence, drones and automated systems are expected to play a part in negatively impacting health, education, finance and law, as so many of the administrative and menial aspects of roles in these industries can be done by technology.
There are also some really exciting and fascinating opportunities that this technology could afford us. The report outlines that 3D printing and robotics will actually be strong drivers of employment growth, particularly in architecture and engineering, as these industries will be seen to be the ones to turn the Internet of Things into a reality.
3D printing is projected to have an enormous impact on manufacturing and retail, because as this technology gets more sophisticated and easier to use, people will be able to order highly complex, sophisticated, bespoke items at lower prices. What this also means is that the way design is approached will completely change. Designers will no longer have to think about a product in terms of the manufacturing process, they are much freer to innovate.
As technology becomes more interconnected and developed the notion of ‘person’ will also change.
As our work lives will completely transform, our relationship with technology will deeply impact our way of living by challenging concepts of privacy.
In addition to this, it will significantly impact how we approach relationships, how we emote and how we can take care of our bodies. It could even change what ‘a sense of self’ means.
And as swarm intelligence becomes more developed, there is the potential that we could harness collective knowledge, an act that radically departs from what we currently think of as ‘personhood’
It won’t be just the world around us that’s changing, we will change as well.
As Klaus Schwab says: “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril.”
Either way it is going to be truly fascinating to see where the technology and these changes take us.