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Automation and jobs – it’s not all bad news

Written by NTN staff
27/04/18

Robots may indeed take over many roles, but many new professions will also emerge as a result of artificial-intelligence development and industrial change.

Talk of automation and AI often leads to doomsday type scenarios of machines taking over human jobs. Journalism is among the many disciplines said to be threatened by algorithms which are already being trained to write a catchy headline use trendy buzzwords to grab attention and generate a click-through (see also http://nationaltechnology.co.uk/robot-writers.php).

In one gloomy forecast from the McKinsey Global Institute, rising automation will result in to 800 million people worldwide being jobless. A third of the workforce in the US and a third of the workforce in Germany will be affected, with up to 30% of hours worked around the globe automated, says the study. According to the study, 60% of occupations have at least 30% of work that can be automated.

But then McKinsey itself highlights an upside, namely that automation will also create new jobs and entirely new categories over time. It suggests that about 375 million people, or 14% of the global workforce, may have to find new occupations entirely.

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“65% of students in primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.”
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Three or four years ago at Mobile World Congress, then Telefonica CEO Cesar Alierta (since retired and replaced by José María Álvarez-Pallete López) cited research suggesting that 65% of students in primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.

“There is unprecedented social development now. Industry is dramatically changing the world. Digitalisation will change everything,” said Alierta. “Companies need to adapt to the new digital economy. We need clear institutions to realise full potential of the digital world for the benefit of society.”

Just like Head of IoT or Social Media didn’t exist ten years ago, the accelerated rate of change the world will undergo in the next ten years and further will lead to new job titles and categories. So what could some of these be?

A forward looking column in the Wall Street Journal identified 10 new jobs that could become reality in the 2020s. These include:

Artificial-intelligence salesperson - good at selling and explaining the latest advances in AI development to both tech-savvy CEOs and laymen.

Digital-logistics manager - they will make sure data centres are optimised and consistently updated and monitored, as well as edge computing related tasks.

IT facilitator – making use of an automated-service platform and a set of specialized virtual assistants for a more holistic IT view of hardware and software

Data brokers - a data broker will be a detective, librarian and analyst for the 21st century, going through terabytes of data, on local storage or located online, in order to provide answers to clients and track down data sources (probably with a heavy element of automation and AI/machine learning assistance)

AI-enhanced, renewable-energy expert - unlike a regular technician, this expert is trained to advise companies and homeowners on the advantages of renewable energy. This contractor has deals with multiple renewable-energy providers, adds the columnist.

Blockchain developer – not a new job, but the proliferation of an existing profession as cryptocurrencies gain mainstream acceptance

Smart city manager – Can be seen as an extension of current IoT roles, these individuals will need to make sense of data coming out of transportation systems, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement and many other silos and verticals.

Robot technician - As robots proliferate, someone will have to ensure they function smoothly in homes and companies. This is where robot technicians come in. Their work would include not only regular hardware maintenance and fixes, but also software and firmware upgrades and remote assistance.
Virtual-reality designers - Industries affected by VR (and AR) include advertising, engineering and entertainment among others.

There’s a whole range of technologies not covered by the above such as drone related roles for example. But the really exciting aspect is that right now we can’t even think of many jobs that will come to exist in 2025/2030 and beyond.