In 1888, Edward Bellamy, a journalist and writer from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, published a book about the future. Titled Looking Backward: 2000–1887, this utopian science fiction novel tells the story of Julian West, a young man who falls into a deep, hypnosis-induced sleep at the end of the 19th century, and wakes up 113 years later. Waking up in the year 2000 the world West finds himself in is rather idyllic.
Work weeks are shorter, people stop working at the age of 45 and spend their later years mentoring others and doing volunteer work that benefits the community. How is this possible? Well, Bellamy’s tale sees new technologies enabling people to be incredibly productive while working part-time. This also frees up their time to pursue their personal interests and hobbies.
Sounds rather perfect, doesn’t it?
While this scenario plays out in a work of fiction, Bellamy’s story is rather refreshing when juxtaposed with the negative reports about how the introduction of automation and new technologies will cause massive job losses and totally turn the world of work upside down.
And Bellamy isn’t the only one painting a more positive picture. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published a report, which found that Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will create more jobs than they replace. Titled “The Future of Jobs”, the report explains that while the transition may be tough for some groups of the workforce, these innovations present countless opportunities for economic prosperity and social progress.
But it’s up to businesses to make things work. “To prevent an undesirable lose-lose scenario—technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality—it is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning, and that governments create an enabling environment, rapidly and creatively, to assist in these efforts,” the WEF report reads.
While automation is set to create jobs, they won’t be the same as the ones destroyed. Think about some of the jobs that didn’t even exist when you were growing up that are around today? Do you think anyone had heard of a social media strategist in the early 1990s? Data entry clerks, accounting and payroll clerks, and administrative and executive secretaries will be among the roles most likely to decline, according to the WEF report. While opportunities for data analysts, AI and machine learning experts are set to increase.
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