Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

What the robot apocalypse will mean for IT, jobs and work

Rob Enderle | July 14, 2014
Robots are coming, and they will eventually take many of our jobs. Before you break out the torches and pitchforks, though, think about how your skills (and, for that matter, your children's skills) can be applied to work that machines will never be able to do.

This is one downside to big data analytics. Once you have the information, Watson, Siri, Cortana or any other artificial intelligence-like system can do a pretty decent job of identifying the best path. In the near term, at least, people will remain in the loop, but they'll increasingly serve as little more than quality control and, unfortunately, won't operate fast enough to do the job properly.  

Sheehy also created a spreadsheet that ranks the jobs that robots are most and least likely to take from people. The top jobs at risk: Financial analyst, financial advisor, industrial buyer, administrator, chartered legal executive (compliance officer) and financial trader. Least at risk: Clinical embryologist, bar manager, diplomatic services officer, community arts worker, international aid worker, dancer, aid/development worker and osteopath.

What's interesting is that jobs that focus on dealing with people are relatively safe, while jobs that focus on analyzing things aren't. Now if the people you focus on are increasingly unemployed, I have to wonder where the money's coming from to pay the salaries of the people-focused folks. (Given that folks who write about technology need an audience to consume things to pay our salaries, we shouldn't be sleeping that well, even though we aren't on the list.)

IT Departments, Jobs to Benefit From Robopocalypse?
Since so few people think about the personal impact of this automation, this is a role IT can fill. Since IT jobs are on the line as well, being a critical part of the decision matrix should provide substantial warnings about additional risk.

Those who can install, train, build, integrate and operate these new automated systems will be in high demand. Depending on the job, we have between five and 15 years to be ready for the robot apocalypse and those who aren't ready have the greatest likelihood of being displaced.

Implementing those automated systems won't be without pain, either. Employees will object to being displaced in large numbers. Based on past experience, the companies most aggressive with robotics are the most likely to catastrophically screw things up.  

I'd like to be able to point to several companies leading the charge, but only Google seems to be aggressively investing in robots. Google's hardly friendly to IT or to jobs, and it will present more of a problem than any type of solution. Page, based on his talk, seems to think cutting incomes massively and giving people more free time will be utopian, but it's more likely to cause riots and revolts. Google may be the most frightening technology vendor we have yet seen.

We have time, but as the market marches on, we should be realistic about our expectations. The idea that the only jobs that will be affected by robots aren't our own is simply not supported. This change promises to encompass all parts of our personal and business life. At some point, we need to get our arms around this problem. If we start now, it's less likely to hit us in the butt when we least expect it.


Previous Page  1  2  3  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.