Jobs lost to robots. Get used to it.
Are you (and your children) ready for the robot invasion? The third wave of automation is already underway and it plans to leave very few economic sectors untouched.
First there was the Industrial Revolution and the mechanization of the first wave of automation, where factories took over from manual labour and dramatically changed the work world. Then came the computer and its own industrial applications in data collection and automation which again changed the employment landscape, this time within those very same factories. Now, the third wave of automation is upon us, with artificial intelligence, robotics, nanosensor technology and data analytics all posing a threat to jobs beyond the factory in more traditionally white-collar worlds such the financial sector.
And the change will bring about a loss of potentially between 1.5 million and 7.5 million jobs in Canada over the next decades, hitting Canada’s more resource-based economy hard.
A recent report from Deloitte and the Human Resources Professionals Association in Canada (HRPA) puts the situation in stark terms. “Technology’s impact is growing wider and deeper. For the first time technology is targeting jobs in fields that have so far been immune to the impacts of automation,” reads the report which says that between 35 and 42 per cent of current jobs in Canada are under threat.
The report’s authors call on the government to get Canadians prepared for the Intelligence Revolution, most importantly by focusing on ongoing education and training for employees and by adapting labour laws to meet the realities of the new gig economy.
“The changes we are seeing are nothing less than historic and governments and educators need to take a skills-first, not a job-first approach,” said Scott Allinson, vice-president of public affairs at
HRPA to Global News.
Joseph Aoun would agree. He’s the president of Northeastern University in Boston and author of “Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.” Aoun says that properly preparing our children for jobs in the new work environment won’t involve cramming more information into them (machines have already got that covered) but leading them to develop stronger skills in adaptation and critical reasoning, making them more creative and elastic in their thinking and working.
“Smart machines are getting smarter,” says Aoun, in a recent column for the Times Higher Education. “Learning has always been the surest antidote to technological redundancy. This remains true today. It is now the obligation of educators to ensure that our learners become robot-proof.”
Thus, the sorts of occupations that are going to survive the AI onslaught will be those that require creative, adaptive behaviours such as programmers and so-called STEM jobs in science, technology, engineering and math but also jobs in people-serving realms such as doctors, nurses and educators.
And the care-based professions are big winners, say the experts. “Anything that involves dealing directly with the public and taking care of them, either their needs in health or other places” are likely to be still in high demand, says Lee Rainie, director of Internet and technology research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC, to CNBC.