Robots taking our jobs? Calm down and think of progress

by borne . September 15, 2015

Twenty years ago there was no such thing as a growth hacker. In twenty years’ time there may be no such thing as a data entry, in human form at least. We might not quite be looking at Skynet and a Terminator-esque robot takeover but a recent report has some interesting suggestions as to jobs which will most likely be performed by robots in the future.

 

Who is at risk?

 

That is a question asked by both the BBC and the Independent and while the essence of the question is of value its application is not.

 

It is that word ‘risk’ that is contentious. The scaremongers out there can and will point to a raft of jobs that are in serious danger of being lost to robots and the human and economic impact that will have. This does sound somewhat ignorant and you only have to look at say the invention of the plough and its effect on farm productivity and the labour market to see that innovation and increased productivity allows for shifts of focus in other industries. Yes, there will be employment waves and changing work patterns and actual job changes but there will be jobs out there to be filled with labour.

 

A good, real world and current example of this would be to look at supermarkets and self-service checkouts. It was assumed that self-service checkouts would reduce the amount of jobs available in supermarkets themselves. This has not been the case with supermarkets among the largest employers in the world and who will always require a real human element to their workforce to help foster the environment that encourages a better shopping experience. Today’s checkout workers may well be tomorrow’s customer experience assistants. Innovation does not necessarily scale back the workforce, only change it.

 

Technology and the future

 

There will always be innovation and entrepreneurialism and there will always be progress. That is what we strive to do. Workers across all industries to app developers to truck drivers to customer service agents to internet bloggers all look for innovation in the workplace and a way to make the work easier, safer, better and quicker for themselves, fellow colleagues and the wider audience whether they be users or customers.

 

That is not to say that there won’t be ‘casualties’. The report by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne was geared towards establishing the susceptibility of certain jobs to computerisation. While jobs like data entry, sewing and cargo handling were high on the list so too were jobs like Tax preparers, Insurance Claim Clerks and Mathematical technicians. In other words the jobs that were deemed most susceptible were not only ones that involved mechanical or repetitive acts, but ones that required data cross-referencing which can done by computer calculations and programming, not by a ‘robot’.

 

A programmer will not set out to take jobs away by creating a method which allows people to file their taxes easier but the fact remains that this will likely happen. It is doubtful to say that jobs will be lost in the sense that people will be systematically fired because of computerisation but more likely that jobs will be ‘lost’ to time. This is not a new thing and jobs like telegram or switchboard operators, street lamp lighters, rat catchers and even bowling pin re-setters have been lost to history. They are remembered with a nostalgic fondness of how things used to be and, after a period of time, how things have been made better because of technology. Heck, it wouldn’t be surprising if a 1950s style bowling alley opened up with traditional pinsetters for the fun of it but that’s beside the point.

 

The point is that scaremongering the so-called loss of jobs is tantamount to putting a stopper on progress. Computers and the internet have revolutionised our way of life, how we do things, how we communicate – Social Media Strategists, Bloggers, Video Journalists, UX designers these are all jobs which exist today because of progress and entrepreneurialism. The ball is rolling. Viva la progress.