11 Feb The Future of Work
What are the chances machines will do nearly ALL work in the not so distant future? In the past 15 years we’ve seen a drastic change in how we work, as nearly ever profession requires computation by a machine, but what happens next? I have given a lot of thought to this dilemma (technology v. human ability) & have come to the conclusion that our grandchildren will look back on today & feel it is very odd that humans used to do the “work.” They will look back on 2015 and say, “wow, unemployment used to be only 8%.” Ironically, 8% unemployment was what the Obama Administration considered the 2nd worse economic collapse in our History. That figure will seem minuscule in 50 years.
I first began to take this stance when I worked for Kyriba , a technology firm that automates Accounting functions at large MNC’s (Multi-National Corporations) — financial reports that used to take months to perfect are now instantaneous… without the cost of 50 or more skilled employees it used to take to produce said reports. I worked there as a Sales Engineer, where I made & prepared visually stunning presentations & webinars, then presented the work & actual backend functionality of our software to interested executives. Not surprisingly, the biggest fears these fortune 500 c-level people had were always the same: 1) Is this software secure enough to handle financial data & transactions & 2) How much money will this save our company?
The 2nd question is essentially what we are talking about here. 50 to 400 person accounting departments which cost tens of millions of dollars annually or Kyriba’s monthly fee — about 8k. Not to mention the same reports are instant with the computers doing the work.
Moreover, the question I’ve always pondered is “What profession can’t be automated. The answer came to me pretty quickly — any profession that involves feelings or negotiation. Machines, as of now, don’t have the power to gauge human emotion (although startups like Emotient are trying) nor do they have the ability to make educated guesses. In negotiation humans take in social ques, timing of statements, outside indicators & make inferences to help gauge what their negotiation tactic will be.
These non-exact professions (think counselors, psychologists, & deal makers) where no answer is correct and no answer is wrong, are where humans are still needed. This may come off as bleak, but the way I see it, 50% or greater unemployment will become the new norm in 50 years. The half who do still have jobs will be essentially monitoring the machines — like Homer Simpson “monitors” the plant in Springfield.