Robots conjure images of some distant future – a crisp, white-walled existence. Except that time is now. Last month, one leading futurologist predicted that the global robot population, already more than 57 million, will outnumber humans by 2048, and that's a conservative estimate. Automation is already ingrained in everything from warehouse management to selling financial products. Workers are worried that they are going to find themselves replaced in the jobs market; employer services provider ADP recently surveyed 1,300 working adults and found that a third believe their job will be automated within the next 10 years.
The average worker of the future is a socially adept leader, entrepreneur, and life-long learner with transferrable technology skills, who is also happy to work in a team, suggests a new McKinsey report. Chris Middleton looks at whether organisations can really find such people. Reports about the growing IT skills gap in digitally enhanced organisations have been circulating for as long as the internet has existed as a business tool, suggesting that the supposed urgency of fixing the problem has not been an impediment to many successful organisations. However, a new report from management consultancy McKinsey suggests that the rapid introduction of automation and artificial intelligence systems within companies is changing the very nature of work itself, as technologies increasingly augment some human skills, and replace others completely. Over the next decade, this will force companies to reconsider how work is organised internally.
TV series "Humans" shows robots taking over simple human tasks Photo: Channel 4 Over the last decade, the types and definitions of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have ranged across a wide spectrum. A future of smart homes and smart cars, driven by AI, is no longer a distant reality. This future poses questions to businesses; principal among them is how businesses can adapt to AI. The practical impact on companies, and their workforces, is an increasingly pressing issue around the boardroom. The International Federation of Robots (yes, a real thing, not a Star Wars coalition) reported last year that robot sales in 2014 increased by 29% – the biggest increase ever recorded within a year, and this trend is expected to continue.
As artificial intelligence becomes both more useful and more widespread, workers everywhere are becoming anxious about how a new age of automation might affect their career prospects. A recent study by Pew Research found that in 10 advanced and emerging economies, most workers expect computers will do much of the work currently done by humans within 50 years. Workers are clearly anxious about the effects on the job market of artificial intelligence and automation. Estimates about how much of the workforce could be automated vary from about 9% to 47%. The consultancy McKinsey estimates up to 800 million workers globally could be displaced by robotic automation by 2030.
Humanity continues to embark on a period of unparalleled technological advancement. The next 5, 10 and 20 years will present both significant challenges and opportunities. Private sectors, governments, academics and entrepreneurs are all seeking the roadmap for navigating these profound changes in the world of work. Such a road map must be created collaboratively by all stakeholders. At its core, an industrial revolution can be characterized by advancements in technology that humanity applies to improve the process of production.