When the Czech writer, Karel Čapek, coined the word “robots” in his play R.U.R. ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ in 1920, he couldn’t have envisaged the radical role these guys were still going to play in defining humans in relation to their workplace.
A McKinsey Global Institute study shows that one-fifth of the global workforce will be affected by automation and artificial intelligence.
Whether you like it or not, we are gradually progressing into the automation age, where robots are beginning to perform routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than we humans, and also able accomplish tasks that involve cognitive capabilities. Those abilities include problem-solving (from simple to complex problems), speech recognition (In a recent test, computers outperformed professional human lip-readers scoring 95 percent accuracy, while humans had a 52 percent accuracy), sensing emotion, driving, etc. These activities were considered sacred and couldn’t be automated successfully some years ago, but here we are now.
The impact of advancement in robotics and automation on workers will vary across all skill and industry levels. In some industries, particularly with less routine work, the impact would be limited for now. In some other industries, workers would work alongside machines to become more productive. And in some other industries, where work is predictable and routine, workers would be forced to retire or learn new skills to function at a higher level in the industry. Workers in industries like manufacturing and retailing -where most disruption has already started would fall into the later category. While activities like collecting and processing data, opening accounts, registering a tax filing which are done across all industries are all subject to automation.
Low-skilled workers have always been the casualties in every major workplace disruptions in history, they are prone to losing their jobs with businesses and organizations looking to make high skilled workers more productive withy automation, but eventually, as technology advances, even middle-skill workers and high-skilled workers would be affected by automation. And that’s because the nature of work, structure of businesses and the basis of competition in industries will be transformed. It goes without saying that everyone should be able to learn new skills to effectively collaborate with machines.
However, this development in the workplace opens opportunities for coaching and training services to build the human part of Man (emotions, creativity, problem-solving etc).
Managers also would have to spend more time organizing activities to ensure the productive collaboration between machines and humans.
Skills that could be in demand?