Authors of iDisrupted comment on the potential impact of new technologies on the jobs market
Disruptive technology and jobs: Will new technology create more jobs than it destroys, or will it lead to unprecedented job losses creating mass unemployment?
“Technology can be a force for creating more wealth for all,” say the authors of the new book iDisrupted, “but there is a danger that instead it will permanently devastate the jobs market. The final result will partially depend on the decisions made by policy makers over the next few years.”
As a general rule of thumb, computers find it relatively easy to do the things we find hard, but struggle to do the things we find easy. Technology may replace many white-collar jobs – including accountancy, legal and actuarial work and maybe even general practice in medicine – within the next 10 to 15 years.
However, occupations that require creative, social skills and empathy are not likely to be replaced for the foreseeable future. The question is whether there will be enough jobs that require these skills to make up for those that are lost.
At the peak of its success, Kodak employed 145,000 people, but today Apple only employs 47,000 and Facebook 7,000.* You only need to compare the contribution of global GDP from the big tech companies with their contribution to global employment to see that, on balance, disruptive technology is currently having a negative effect on the jobs market.
iDisrupted’s co –author John Straw said: “Advances in AI, and in particular in pattern recognition, mean that computers will increasingly take over the roles that have traditionally been the preserve of the middle class. This may have devastating effect on the social economic map.”
Michael Baxter, iDisrupted’s other main co-author said: “There are jobs that neither computers nor robots are likely to perform for a very long time, such as in care, counselling or nursing. But these roles are not typically well paid, and unless the fruits of technology benefit the wider population, it is hard to see where the demand will come for to fund these types of occupations.”
John Straw added: “Other areas where we will see disruption caused by technology include driving related tasks that will be replaced self-driving vehicles. Further automation in combination with the Internet of Things will hit jobs in manufacturing industries.”
Baxter concluded: “We may also see the creation of a new kind of retail assistant, one who is also a 3D printer expert who can advise customers on designs, and produce bespoke products for each customer. But once again, unless the profits from technology trickle down, which frankly they don’t seem to be doing currently, it is hard to see where the demand for the services these jobs will supply will come from.”
iDisrupted is available in all good book shops and online. The price for the paperback is £9.99.
*See: Has Creative Destruction Become More Destructive? John Komlos