Extreme Automation & Job Loss

Technology is getting smarter, faster and better. Our journey from industrial age to digital age is punctuated with some great inventions and discoveries that have changed the face of humanity. The industrial revolution that started at the end of 18th century in England, changed the way how things were manufactured. Before the advent of industrial revolution everything was done by hands but after the invention of machines things were mass produced on unprecedented scale. This was the first kind of automation successfully achieved by humans. Automation can be defined as use of machines and technology to run processes without or with minimal intervention of humans. It helps increases reliability and improves efficiency of a task. 

Warren Bennis, an American scholar and organizational consultant has said, "The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment." Though this should not be taken in literal sense but it does give an indication of how emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics, and 3D printing, to name a few, are displacing millions of jobs globally. Throughout history we have seen how technological advancement has made many jobs redundant when loom machine was invented people who made clothes with hand were out of work, personal computer replaced the typist so on. In 21st century we will see a driverless car replacing drivers and robots replacing waiters at hotels.

In January 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report named, 'The Future of Jobs' that clearly mentioned that we have entered in the 4th industrial revolution and by 2020 more than 5 million or 50 lakh jobs are at stake. Currently majority of the global workforce, 65% of them is engaged in industries like consumer goods, financial services, media, technology and entertainment. Most of the jobs that will be eliminated would be of administrative and white collar office jobs. A white paper released by UBS, a global financial services firm, for World Economic Forum (WEF) states that low-skill jobs are first to be automated followed by middle-skill jobs when advanced technology with extreme automation is rolled out. Low skilled labors who work on assembly line will see further contraction with the introduction of collaborative robots which move around and communicate with other robots making human intervention meaningless. Even banks are making use of artificial intelligence to disburse loans to eligible candidate with the use of their smart algorithm, which take into account the person's credit score and past records. A report published by McKinsey Global Institute suggest that most of the time we think the automation affect only the low and middle skilled workers but research shows that 20%  activities of c-level executives like CEOs, CTOs, CMOs and financial managers can also be automated by using current technologies.

In a 2016 report published by Oxford Martin School 'Technology at Work v2.0' suggests that the 47% of the US and 35% workforce of UK may be at the risk of extreme automation compared to 69% in India and 77% in China.   This is evident from the fact how India IT companies are shifting their focus to futuristic technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics and advanced biotechnology. So, in order to adapt to the changing dynamics of job market due to shift in the technologies WEF has strongly emphasized on learning and upgrading news skills for the current employees so that they can save their jobs in case of layoffs. As Elbert Hubbard, an American writer says, "One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." 

The WEF report mentions India as one of the top 5 job creators and layoffs due to automation in the coming 5 years won't impact much. In the future rather than elimination of jobs, the work processes will be more aligned to future technologies where humans and robots can co-exist to create better world.