Nearly half of American jobs could be automated in “a decade or two,” according to a recent argument by two researchers in The Economist. The jobs of everyone from telemarketers to title examiners to watch repairers to library technicians have become endangered by advances from the Internet of things, while many of those that have been deemed safe from such disruption are hands-on healthcare-related occupations: mental-health social workers, oral surgeons, prosthetists and recreational therapists. Yet, as this phenomenon unfolds, it underscores areas of opportunity, not only for individuals, but also for companies organized around their skills.
“Humans are, and always will be, superior at working with, and caring for, other humans,” Derke Thompson recently wrote on TheAtlantic.com. “In this light, automation doesn’t make the world worse. Far from it: It creates new opportunities for human ingenuity.”
CEOs and company owners not only can adapt to this wave of change, but also get ahead of it by recruiting and retaining the right talent. Along with that, business leaders can increase employee retention and loyalty by letting their workers know they don’t need to view the rise of “IoT” as a vocational death sentence.
Other experts believe the rise of IoT will create opportunities and competition for talent in industries such as software writing and electrical engineering. “I fundamentally believe that IoT won’t work without human interaction of some kind,” said Tanuja Randery, president of Schneider Electric UK&I, at a recent industry forum in the UK. “You can automate processes and create significant efficiencies, but at the end of the day, there is someone programming the algorithms or analyzing the data, because the robots can’t do it. We need 4.5 million developers for IoT alone, so I think anyone [whose job gets eliminated] will end up getting a job elsewhere.”
Robotics, artificial intelligence and other aspects associated with the Internet of things “will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025,” according to the Pew Research Center, “with huge implications for a range of industries such as healthcare, transport and logistics, customer service and home maintenance.”
Yet, a Pew/Elon University survey of 1,900 Internet experts and “highly engaged netizens” are split about even regarding the implications of this trend for human talent and those who manage it.
“Half of these experts (48 percent) envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order,” Pew and Elon reported.
The other half of the experts who responded to the survey, or 52 percent, “expect that technology will not displace more jobs than it creates by 2025. To be sure, this group anticipates that many jobs currently performed by humans will be substantially taken over by robots or digital agents by 2025. But they have faith that human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.”
This, of course, leaves business owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs firmly in critical positions for ensuring that the optimistic view of a future based on IoT prevails, and not the pessimistic one.