The phrase “The robots are coming” is often repeated these days. What does their arrival mean for the future of work? That question has short term implications, and the potential for profound long-term impacts. Ask around and you get vastly different perspectives on the question. We seem as polarized on the topic as we are about anything these days. A very good perspective was provided recently in an Article authored by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. The article explores the possible changes to work as robots become a common feature in the work environment.
In an earlier Post, I explored the possible implications of COVID-19. As with any look into the future, we know a series of dots will connect to shape it. Looking at the pieces in isolation fails to identify the potential paths. The world of work is a great example. Whatever happens in the context of work has an obvious ripple effect into multiple domains. The visual below captures some of that those ripples:
In a recent Article by Bryan Walsh, he describes the mega-trends that are likely to shape this century. These trends are driven by the Acceleration of innovation and a growing set of Societal Factors. In describing the seriousness of these trends, our author points to a forthcoming book titled “The Precipice”. In the book, author Toby Ord of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute gives one in six odds that humanity will suffer an existential catastrophe during the next 100 years — almost certainly due to our own actions.
In the book The Fourth Turning, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe illuminate the past, explain the present, and reimagine the future. They offer an utterly persuasive prophecy about how America’s past will predict its future. Here is what they had to say:
As many focus on the future of work, various different perspectives are presented. A common theme is emerging: Jobs will be there, but they will be very different within the next decade. This recent Article draws three conclusions:
- In 10 years time, 50% of jobs will be changed by automation – but only 5% eliminated.
- 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.
- Young, low-skilled and vulnerable people – all need help with up-skilling.
Several critical points are made by the World Economic Forum article:
An Article by IEEE Spectrum captured a dialog that occurred at a recent MIT conference. The topic: AI and the Future of Work. The conference discussion underscores the struggles between Techno-Optimism and Techno-Pessimism. Pessimistic when AI and automation are viewed as an industry-destroying path that takes jobs via self-driving technology, smart law algorithms, and robots that continue to put factory and warehouse workers out of work. Optimistic when those same technologies are viewed as augmentation that improves the employee experience.
A recent Article on the future of work focused on an important piece of the story: a future employee compensation model. Author Dwight Chestnut proposes a new model that he calls the Empowered Employee Compensation Model (EECM). This new workplace compensation model was the result of a new economic research initiative. The model replaces hourly wages, salaries and benefits with ten new income resources and benefits and is projected to drive a three-fold increase in the aggregate standard of living.
Within the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum is focused on Globalization 4.0. We are actually approaching Globalization’s Third Act. In a book titled The Great Convergence, Author Richard Baldwin describes the three constraints that have limited globalization: the cost of moving goods, the cost of moving ideas, and the cost of moving people. The first two acts of globalization occurred when the cost of moving goods and ideas dropped. While globalization raised the standard of living in several developing economies, the third constraint limited the breadth of impact.
In his closing chapter, Mr. Baldwin explores the possibility of a third act. This act is driven by dramatic advancements in areas that address the third constraint. If the cost of moving people were to drop, developing nations like South America, Africa, and others could be the beneficiaries of this third act. That aside, the World Economic Forum is looking at global risks and the need for global solutions. They identified Six Questions that must be addressed to make the next wave of Globalization work for all. They correctly state that facing future challenges requires dialog and input from all. Kudos to them for driving the dialog. The six questions are:
- How do we save the planet without killing economic growth?
- Can you be a patriot and a global citizen?
- What should work look like in the future?
- How do we make sure technology makes life better not worse?
- How do we create a fairer economy?
- How do we get countries working together better?
A very good set of questions. You can see how people responded to them by going Here.
A popular question these days is: Will a robot take my job? That question is as popular as: what should my child study in school? At the heart of both questions is the fear that we as a society will automate anything that can be automated. This website may help bring some clarity – at least in the context of automation risk level. It’s very quick, simply enter your job and an automation risk level expressed as a percentage will be returned.
Ultimately, these questions are difficult to answer, as we cannot predict the jobs of the future – and required skill levels could be a moving target. The progression of automation can be viewed on a spectrum from augmenting humans to fully conscious machines. There are arguments being made on both ends of this spectrum – time will tell.
In a recent book titled The Future of Work, author Darrell M. West describes the Work 2.0 scenario on this emerging future visual. In exploring possible implications of a shifting work paradigm, he gets prescriptive about possible responses. This implication-response exercise sits at the heart of Future Thinking.
No one can predict this complex and uncertain future – but exercises like this help us see possible futures. In seeing them, we position ourselves to proactively shape them. In the context of work, Mr. West explores several possible responses, including another future scenario which he calls Republic 2.0. How this scenario plays out has a direct impact on the path of other scenarios. The scenario speaks to a new kind of politics. Mr. West states:
I just added another very good book to the Book Library: The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation. Author Darrell M. West looks at a world in which our current views of work change. He explores the implications to our social contract and the policy decisions so critical to revising that contract for a new era. Structural change – which Mr. West explores in the book – has long been a tenet of my work. The future of many of our institutions will either change by our proactive acknowledgement that they must change – or they will be undermined.
The conversation so nicely positioned by our author is one that must happen at all levels of leadership. This does not have to be a Utopian versus Dystopian discussion. Rather, like the major disruptive periods of our past, leaders need to lead.
The fast pace of innovation, technology, geopolitics, socio-economics and demographic factors is driving disruption in industry – for both the employer and the employee. HAP’s purpose is to build a sense of connectedness while you embrace a transformational shift of your awareness and skill sets to prepare for 21st century engagement.
In a recent article, Kevin Drum makes a compelling argument that You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think. The piece is a little long, but this is a must read for everyone. At the heart of his argument lies the exponential progression of artificial intelligence (AI). Using the human brain as a barometer, AI will reach one tenth the power of the human brain by 2035. By 2045, we will have full human level AI.
I had the pleasure of developing an online thought leadership course focused on our emerging future back in May of this year. I had the added pleasure of working with futurists Gerd Leonhard, Gray Scott, and Chunka Mui, along with several industry leaders. The free Thought Leadership Course is available through May of next year. The course has been invaluable to me, as it provided a platform for dialog about our emerging future. I was thrilled with the thought provoking dialog that occurred through our moderated forum. For all those that participated thank you.
During the two week course, several poll questions were positioned to help us understand how the community is feeling about critical topics like ethics, our economy, and the likely transformative period that lies ahead. Here are the questions and their responses. There is plenty of time to take the course and add your voice to the conversation.
Join me on the June 9th episode of CXOTALK with Industry Analyst and host Michael Krigsman. We will be joined by Anthony Scriffignano, Chief Data Scientist, Dunn & Bradstreet. A quick description of the episode:
What are the implications of technology and new business models on the future of work? The impact of technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics have profound implications for both companies, individuals, and society. At the same time, government policy on these issue lags technology and the impact on people. On this episode, a respected futurist and well-known data scientist explore these complicated and important issues.
In my last post, I described a Sense and Respond model that sits at the heart of several activities, including scenario, opportunity, and risk analysis. As complexity and pace continue to intensify, uncertainty increases. To survive in this Emerging Future, we must embrace a framework for future thinking, and an organization that can adapt as it shifts. In essence, we must see the future, rehearse it, continuously monitor for shifts, and adapt as the shifts occur. A sense and respond model sits at the core of the framework – but represents the biggest cultural challenge.
I thought it would be interesting to get a slightly different perspective on the questions that I posed to Futurist Gerd Leonhard in our recent interview. So I reached out to IT Futurist Thornton May. Thornton and I have interacted on a number of occasions at various events. His bio describes him as a futurist, educator and author. His extensive experience researching and consulting on the role and behaviors of C-level executives in creating value with information technology has won him an unquestioned place on the short list of serious thinkers on this topic. Thornton moderates the nationally recognized CIO Solutions Gallery program, intended for executives and senior leaders in the technology and operations communities.
With that background, I was excited to explore these broad topics with Thornton. His perspective follows.