Humanity has been thriving since at least 200,000 years ago. Humans have been evolving from being a cave being to being a very intelligent being capable of creating efficient, effective tools and machines to work for them. Now, a tiny portion of these very intelligent beings are working hard and smart to automate the world with ever-innovative software and hardware in the form of automation and artificial intelligence-driven solutions across all aspects of life and business as we know it. This trend is unstoppable. It is part of being humans, constantly trying to better themselves and find new ways to automate any inefficiencies and ineffective ways of doing things in all areas. We believe now more than ever that overtime a large-percentage of the general working-age human population worldwide are not ready for this massive trend shaping the future of work. Highly-intelligent, super-accurate, super-effective innovations driven by artificial intelligence-enabled software and hardware will impact many areas of work and industries. Some innovations may significantly decimate or even totally eliminate the needs for human involvements. Consider this, up to 20 millions manufacturing jobs will be lost to automation by 2030, per Oxford Economics; and this is just for one area of the economy.
This upcoming singularity era is coming fast whether we like it or not. It is inevitable. One good thing is that humans will likely have more free-time because of automation going forward. However, free time for humans is a double-edge sword. People with free-time to burn but do not have meaningful work nor money, may not result in positive societal behavior. There are three questions we need to ask ourselves as humans:
- What do current workforce and future graduates (who will likely need to work after they graduate) need to do to survive and thrive in the era continuous automation of works?
- Will unemployment rate and the gap between the rich and the poor rise even faster from this point globally due to less needs for workforce driven by unstoppable automation?
- What do governments and leaders worldwide need to do to maintain economic and political stability to anticipate the future of work?
These questions are very hard to answer, yet as humans, we must try to address them. Instead of trying to answer, we are attempting to think about solutions to these questions. There are wide-range of potential solutions for each one of the questions above. We consider the following human-centered future of work solutions:
- For the first question, we propose that humans shall from now focus and refocus on skills rather than degrees to be competitive in the workplace.
- For the second question, we propose that humans shall be allowed to work flexibly across various skills and expertise they have including the ones that currently are working full-time (because they may lose their jobs due to automation in the future if not now), and increase flexibility of work across not just line of work but also location of work and numbers of employers they can work with (so as not to be stuck with one employer only or nothing else.)
- For the third question, we propose that governments and leaders need to increase their investments (while they still can) in: a) educating young adults and even children on the importance of acquiring skills that matter for the future not just the present; b) increasing options for humans to use their upcoming more free-time to make them productive and contributive to their family, community, society, and the world at large; and c) reducing personal taxes to all lower-and-middle-tiered income producing individuals and households.
Humanity and present workforce have the opportunity and chance to survive and thrive in the automation and artificial intelligent era. We just need to seriously rethink how, where, why, when, what, and who we work (for). An optimistic view of work is that humans generally are adaptive and flexible to survive in very difficult situations provided they are given opportunities and the right resources. Let’s work together to thrive in the present and future of work.
“The measure of intelligent is the ability to change.” ~ Albert Einstein
Author of this article is the Co-Founder & President of GoingFlex, a flexible service & talent platform enabling human-centered future of work. The article is a personal view of the future of work and automation.