The Future of Work in the Age of Automation and Robotics
Will robots take away our jobs?
What a fantasy future without robots?
Finally introducing the fundamental reason for this newsletter. The fear which I am going to tackle for you was the same fear which caught me for the last 1.5 years and made me design and help form a future where human skills are relevant.
Sci-fi movies have done their job to make you believe robots are enemies of humans but hold on, you will see a shift in your belief by the end of this story of
“The robotic future of humanity”.
Let’s dive in
In today’s edition of Innopreneurs, we will learn more about the future of robotics and automation to help you prepare for a robotic future where new jobs are being created and destroyed every year.
We will look at the kind of impact automation will have on jobs and industries.
Some major points that we will be discussing are :
What is automation and how has it evolved with time, its advantage and disadvantage, how automation looks like in the 21st century, some major innovations in this field, and finally what can you do to future-proof yourself and your job against automation.
What is automation?
In laymen's terms, anything which was once done by humans and is now done by machines is robotics. It can be a self-driving car that has cut down on the driver’s job, it can be a Voice recording and note typing software that has made a secratory’s job useless.
Similarly in the case of automation if you can teach a machine what you are doing in simple steps and it makes no difference who does that job then it’s automation. A well-known example of that would be a customer support chat to get casual information related to the company and its products or services, the assembly line which simplified the process of manufacturing and cut down the cost of operation, and so on.
Let’s go a little back in time to see how and when this trend of automation started kicking into human civilization and its effect on society.
History of Automation and Robotics
No wonder humans have always been playing with brains to rule over the animal kingdom and automation tools are an integral part to make that happen.
Since the invention of the wheel, we have been inventing automation tools and technologies to save time and energy from doing boring and monotonous works to spending on more creative works for leisure and pleasure.
Back in time, energy and time used to be the same for everybody and were limited by 24 hr and 1 human labor. With power and wealth, people started expanding their time and energy by utilizing others’ labor by providing employment and multiple stable jobs for them. Since time immemorial human labor has been a major driver of wealth for rich people of society.
But this hunger to create more wealth drives innovation forward by making machines do our job and gradually there was a “Printing press” to replace Handwriting experts, “Assembly line” to cut down labor-based jobs in the automobile industry, “Computer” to cut down information based secretarial jobs. These tools made humanity take a big leap towards an efficient society.
Over time, we’ve grown over-reliant on automated technology in almost every part of our lives, from automatic doors in retail to factory line robots, to business process automation in the office.
The history of automation has seen a lot of success in a very short period of time. It continues to grow and evolve today, providing us with more innovative solutions.
The future of automation is looking for better technologies to save cost and improve efficiency at various levels and here comes robotics… (Tan tana) A machine or gadget with (error-free) human-like capabilities.
Advantage of Automation
Robotics and automation have always been our third hand at making our work faster and easier. Traces of all major evolutions can be traced back to the invention of automation tools like a Printing press for the Scientific revolution, Assembly line for the Industrial revolution, Computer for the Internet revolution.
Automation revolutionized our way of living and innovations. We’ve come a long way from living in caves to modern digital societies. Nowadays innovation in this field has reached a level where we have inserted a bit of consciousness of the human brain into machines. We have almost replicated our brain and memory capability in non-living chips and machinery to ease the cognitive workload. Our smartphone has become our second brain and is used to store our digital footprints in form of text, image, and video.
However, there are some pretty obvious benefits of automation that one can’t unsee
It lowers the cost of business operation, ensures high safety and security of workers, Increased productivity of workers, and a highly consistent rate of production with premium quality
Automation frees up human workers from dirty, dull, or dangerous jobs; to improve the quality of work by eliminating errors and reducing variability.
It cut the manufacturing costs by replacing increasingly expensive labor costs with cheaper machines.
Rising productivity leads to a positive impact on society and the economy with better products and innovation.
No doubt automation promises a bright future ahead but there are some pitfalls ahead of this rapid progress that you should be aware of.
There are two sides to this technological evolution: The new castle is being built at the loss of the old.
The dark side of automation
In a study conducted in Australia, it has been found that 40% of all jobs may be replaced by automation and this may lead to unemployment on a massive scale for some sectors. It will certainly lead to chaos since the majority of human workers fall in the range of knowledge workers and it’s hard to retrain an adult with new skills for another job search.
Jobs that require Input A to Output B scenario are likely to be outsourced to computers, including jobs like receptionists, telemarketers, bookkeeping clerks, proofreaders, delivery couriers, and even retail salespeople.
Robots and automation are the new age villains of employees if their skills didn’t get upgraded soon enough.
The fear associated with automation is real since they have been causing mass unemployment in past. The root cause is the cheap cost of robots than hiring labor to do the same job. This makes automation worthy of doubtful consequences for humanity.
After the industrial revolution, advanced machinery put a halt on physical labor done by humans and gave them to robotic arms.
The tidal effects of automation come in many social and cultural forms. It renders people useless, the surge in poverty, huge income gap, mass depression, and mental health crisis leading to a vicious cycle. The advanced wave of automation raises concern over the extent of automation. We need strong rules and mandates to maintain peace and harmony between employees and employers.
On the other hand, retraining is capital intensive and only big companies can afford it. It takes years to see the economical benefit of retraining and process itself is very cumbersome and cost-intensive.
What should you do if you are a knowledge worker and you fall in the category of people whose jobs can be easily automated with a quick shift in the company’s budget?
What skills should you learn to future-proof your skills in an irreplaceable sector of skills in which automation can’t replace your value with any advanced automation?
Automation in 21st century
Many robots are built to do jobs that are hazardous to people, such as defusing bombs, finding survivors in unstable ruins, and exploring mines and shipwrecks. Robotics is also used in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as a teaching aid. Sojourner rover was humanity’s first robotic mission to Mars.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is gaining a lot of traction because it connects hardware technology with software technologies and makes it easy to build, deploy, and manage software robots that emulate human actions interacting with digital systems and software.
Automation is also creating an enormous new category of jobs such as Automation administrator, Automation economist, AI trainer, BPA programmer, Chatbot copywriter, Chief listening officer, Machine relations manager.
These roles don’t exactly ring any bell at this hour but they are not too far from getting listed on the LinkedIn job section. One common element among all the new jobs is the high amount of ambiguity and randomness. Machines are better than humans for well-defined repetitive tasks but they can’t sail through ambiguity and new situations. While humans are pretty good at that. we can decide and react in ambiguity without any set rules. A company need a highly skilled manager to take care of a large set of automation across all machinery and keep the works done by automation aligned with the end goals.
Job on the verge of automation
Job’s which lies in the range of well defined, structured work are more prone to fall in the category of automation. Since the possibility of removing humans from boring, repetitive, codable tasks is much higher. According to a prediction, automation will create nearly 1 billion jobs globally by 2030 with a loss of 2 billion current jobs.
Looking at the current trends this decade 2020-30, will be about how to upskill and adapt old workforces for the latest technologies.
We have no time to debate or fight back for how many jobs were lost Vs created. The solution lies in adopting and upskilling since no strike and angst could stop the Industrial revolution from adopting advanced automation tools.
Some major Inventions in the automation industry :
1. Google's worker robots
The technology giant recently won a patent for an ambitious project which will be producing working robots with different personalities. Engineers will enable the machines to download personalities from a cloud-based system. The robots can store and display multiple personalities while interacting with humans as per the situation and mood.
2. Multi-tasking bots
Momentum Machines developed a multi-tasking bot capable of preparing a gourmet hamburger in as little as 10 seconds. A major invention for fast-food restaurants, to lower down the cost of production and labor costs.
3. UR3 arm
An automated device created by Universal Robots known as UR3 is capable of making its own replacement parts on the fly. A sure-shot invention to make the Star War fantasy of Clone war real.
Pepper is a talking humanoid robot that adapts its attitude based on the mood of humans around it. The device detects emotional states like sadness, surprise, joy, and anger. It responds in a natural and appropriate fashion. Pepper uses multi-directional microphones to detect sounds.
How to future proof your Job
It is evident that automation is here to stay and the pandemic has just accelerated it, so what have you left with to arm yourself for the age of Automation. Here is some findings:
The future of work is full of technology tools, software try to learn the software in demand for your job and industry. Eg- ERP software
No technology can replace REAL HUMAN, lookout for jobs that give high value to individual personality and personal creativity. Try to create your personal brand and USP for the same.
Robots can never replicate human thinking and jobs that require a specific combination of rational thinking, common sense, flexibility, manual dexterity, worldly and special knowledge, empathy, and communication skills are original and give you the freedom to become creative.
Ultimately business has to sell their products to humans and people prefer the human element and trust over machines for all roles which deals with a human directly. Eg- Education, Healthcare, etc
Keep an eye on the advancements being made in this field and understand what AI can do. And focus on building the skills in areas where robots can’t replicate human traits.
Jobs that require human qualities like communication, empathy, creativity, strategic thinking, questioning, and Imagination can never be going in the hands of robots. These qualities are referred to as “soft skills,” but soon they will become the hard currency in the job market. Focus on having a good personal brand to shout out to you on these soft skills since a majority of these qualities can’t be put down on paper as a degree or marks.
That’s it for this week.
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Until next week
Stay hungry, Stay curious