Will a robot take my job?
The rise of the robots and the automation of jobs is a hot topic at the moment, and countless scare stories have appeared online. The replacement of jobs involving repetitive tasks and decision making with computer algorithms has been happening for years, from data entry to automated phone systems to the stock market, but in the coming Ai revolution the question of whether there will be enough new jobs created from the lost ones is in debate.
There are fears that a skills gap has emerged, in which a tech elite create a wealth disparity, with the highest paid jobs being in software. Instagram was a company with only 13 staff, and was sold for $1 billion to Facebook after only 15 months. There is something ruthlessly inevitable about the tech companies’ facilitation of our lives, and how we suck it up. Uber drivers are just a stopgap before the human driver is replaced by a driverless car within 10 years.
These startup ideas are great for the customer, but will future generations have any work to do? And seeing the gigantic figures made by tech startups, will they expect money for nothing and their cheques for free? In 1930, English economist George Maynard Keynes predicted on-going technological advance and workers being replaced by machines. Yet far from being a threat, Keynes viewed this as a huge opportunity. He predicted that, by 2030, the average working week would have shrunk to 15 hours. Technology would give birth to a new “leisure class”.
Figures are being predicted that as much as 80 million US jobs could be automated, and UK economic policy maker Andy Haldane recently said in a speech that maybe the Luddites “had a point after all”. Haldane cites the issue of automation being different this time, due to the “rapid emergence of smart machines, jet-propelled by modern computing. These machines are different. Unlike in the past, they have the potential to substitute for human brains as well as hands.” He also wonders if it would be a good thing if this utopian leisure dream was to come true:
“Whether that path is desirable, for individuals or societies, is less clear. Studies show (work) really isn’t just about the money. Work creates a sense of personal worth and social attachment. Its loss serves as a personal and societal blight.” – Andy Haldane
According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years.
Which jobs are at risk of automation?
Try out BBC technology’s handy tool to find out your automation risk.
according to the tool, the most at risk jobs are Telephone salesperson, Typist, Legal secretary and Financial accounts manager, but it’s a long list. Doctors and Accountants should worry. I would welcome the automation of accountancy, because I seem to spend days each year on my paperwork, while they charge a fortune for doing the filing!
My evaluation as ‘Graphic Designer’ (although this is a very vague great description of what I do) came out at only a 5% risk. But I would disagree with this, as I’m pretty sure even creative skills are at risk too, so look out for that article!
My experience of ‘Skills Shift’
As a designer working with ‘new media’ – a term that started when web design became a skill, I have seen the pace of technology change rapidly from the start of my design career. As a freelancer I’ve always been determined to be independent and to carve my own way. This has left me open, but also vulnerable to changing trends in media use. My design career took off when I learnt Flash animation, in the days when personally I found the rich media experience of the web exciting.
Look how robotic websites are now – most sites, including this one, are templated and grid-like, in order to satisfy the need to be responsive to both desktop and mobile devices. The iPad was the initiator of change: a device that blocked the Flash experience for its web browsers, so that web design and development was forced to change to the web standard Html5.
Ironically this sudden death of Flash on the iOS devices brought me a better opportunity. I had made my living from animating Flash banners for years, which I hated. I took my Flash skills, learnt basic AS3 coding, and started to develop kids apps using Flash with the Adobe Air plugin for mobile devices. I was now an app developer and publisher of my own content, selling my apps through the Appstore, Google Play, Amazon and Nook store. Flash may have died as a platform, but it’s still the most versatile creative software. It can be used for drawing vector graphics, animating, making interactive presentations which are exportable to video and html5. So when media changes, there’s still a chance to transfer our skills.
I had my fair share of success and failure on the Appstores, and it’s been a huge learning experience. The market was saturated when I started, and it changes exponentially, so that while one is developing an app, the market can completely change when it’s ready for launch! While it’s not a good place for indie developers to make a living, it’s a great platform for long term royalties and reaching people, even if most apps are now free.
And here I am now, learning new skills all the time – infographics, WordPress, Html5 animation, in the spirit of trying to keep up and reinventing myself once again… Just like everyone will be doing in most industries in the future.