The machine workforce is on the rise. While technological innovation has always happened, existing and emerging technology is not only changing the pace of technological innovation exponentially, it is giving rise to an entirely new competitive workforce that is intelligent. As a result, it is not only the current models of business, governance, management, and technology that are being crushed under the weight of outdated economics of efficiency, but the human workforce and much of its old skill set that it depends on are also rapidly declining in value.
The emerging artificial intelligence (AI)-driven automation is shifting the way we think about the workforce and forces us to begin a broader discussion on the changing nature of work, workplaces, skills, human capabilities, and national preparedness. That brings us to an important question: what forces of automation are defining and determining the shape of the future workforce for respective nations?
The Future of Work
It seems that the shape the workforce of the future takes for each nation will be the result of complex, challenging, changing, and competing forces. While some of these forces are certain and known, the speed at which they unfold can be hard to predict for any nation or its decision makers. As a result, preparing the human workforce solely through today’s work models and technical skills does not guarantee the human workforce the necessary skill set and competencies to compete with the emerging machine workforce that brings many unknowns.
Nations will need to prepare the human workforce for the changing nature of work. The emerging machine workforce is not just fighting for routine tasks or small jobs, but they seem to be competing for jobs even the brightest among the human workforce cannot achieve individually or collectively. As we see, machines are discovering patterns on their own, and they are learning things themselves. So, when we have intelligent tools that can find novel solutions to the complex challenges facing humanity, then it is a whole new world of machine workforce for which the human workforce is not prepared. It is going to be difficult for humans to evaluate what’s left for the human workforce to do as machine workforce takes over.
Moreover, the way jobs are being designed is also changing rapidly, as is the mode of work changing. The traditional 9 to 5 position is dying as a higher number of employees are working remotely. Team structures are evolving, blurring a nation’s geographical boundaries. Besides, a digitally-enabled independent human work is rising. While independent work for humans is nothing new, and self-employment is, still the predominant form of employment in emerging economies, the digital enablement of it is a significant change, as the proportion of independent work that is conducted on digital platforms is proliferating. This is primarily due to the scale, efficiency, and ease of use for the human workforce that these digital platforms enable. From outsourcing work to ad-hoc teams, a distributed work model to a platform model, microwork to macro work, and more, each of these will be difficult transitions for the human workforce to go through. That brings us to an important question: are nations evaluating how difficult these transitions will be?
To understand which work model will become the future of work, it is necessary to evaluate the changing models of work and work structures. We must also assess how work will be organized and how it will look in terms of the human workforce working alongside (or maybe for) a machine workforce. At the same time, it is also essential to evaluate how entities across nations: their governments, industries, organizations, and academia (NGIOA) are evolving themselves due to competitive pressures and technological breakthroughs. One thing is clear that lifelong careers and job security are disappearing, and this emerging reality is likely to shake up the social safety net.
Acknowledging this emerging reality, Risk Group initiated a much-needed discussion on the Future of Work with Gary A. Bolles, an Internationally Recognized Expert, Chair for the Future of Work at Singularity University on Risk Roundup.
Disclosure: Risk Group LLC is my company
Risk Group discusses “The Future of Work: Battle Between the Human Work Force and the Machine Work Force” with Gary A. Bolles, an Internationally Recognized Expert, Chair for the Future of Work at Singularity University, Lecturer and Co-Founder of E-Parachute based in the United States.
Declining Demand for Old Skills Set
A skill set brings humans knowledge, abilities, and the experience necessary to perform a job or work. Since old skillsets are falling in demand, this brings a painful reality of the declining nature of work that the human workforce is used to. Now, since labor is the foundation of human society, when it changes radically and rapidly across nations, everything else that connects the human society falls apart as well. As we look around, we can see those old systems, models, and ways of doing things are struggling to survive as a new way of doing things is emerging rapidly. This new way of doing things requires entirely different skill sets and capabilities — approaches and expectations for the work that many don’t even fully understand yet.
As a result, the human workforce will require constant training and retraining. Moreover, traditional educational institutions will struggle with the current curriculum and training programs in the coming years as roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree will likely be outdated by the time students graduate. This will create complex challenges for students to get jobs, but it will also raise serious questions about the return of investment for students. That brings us to an important issue: will traditional 4-year degree programs survive? Moreover, would degrees even matter?
Preparing the Human Workforce
The future of work is in a state of instability, which is causing considerable anxiety—for a good reason. So, as automation changes the fundamental nature of work, modes of labor, and the workforce, how prepared are the decision makers across nations: its government, industries, organizations, and academia (NGIOA) in understanding these ongoing shifts to move forward?
It is essential to begin a discussion on:
- How can the human workforce prepare for a future that is not clear yet?
- How should the human workforce be prepared?
- How will human workforce talent need to change?
The economic turbulence will certainly increase in the coming years. Moreover, as budgetary turmoil increases, decision-makers at all levels will need to proactively prepare for a more turbulent social climate by making the social safety net a higher strategic priority than it has ever been. That brings us to an important question: are nations preparing the human workforce for what is to come?
The workforce of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are very different. The massive economic disruption that is emerging will likely create enormous societal risks as competition gets fierce. The change is imminent, and this isn’t the time to sit back and wait for events to unfold. To be prepared for the future is to make the future!
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