Since the dawn of time, humans have developed tools and technology to assist in the pursuit of our goals. Large shifts in technology have resulted in large shifts in social structures, and how individuals both contribute to society and make a living. The Industrial Revolution, for example, brought large-scale changes to our socio-economic structures and the kinds of work people did.
Today, technological advances are rapidly making it possible to automate much of the work currently carried out by humans. This applies to both blue-collar jobs, through robotics and the Internet of Things, and white-collar work, through artificial intelligence. The wide applicability of these technologies has led to broad concern about the destruction of jobs. Indeed, according to a 2014 Oxford study, 47% of jobs in the US could be replaced by automated processes in the next two decades.
Of course, as many have noted, while technology has always removed the need for some types of jobs, it also creates new ones. Technology is a set of tools that we use in different ways to increase efficiency. The Industrial Revolution destroyed some jobs but created many more. It also increased the aggregate wealth of society and began to create a middle class who could enjoy health, education and other benefits that previously had been available only to the wealthiest. It can be challenging to predict the kinds of jobs that this new revolution will create and in what quantities, which makes the situation seem worse than it actually is. But nine of the top ten most in-demand jobs of 2012 did not exist in 2003, suggesting that this latest revolution is creating new employment opportunities.
For many, this picture is overly optimistic. The new jobs require a completely different skills set – you can’t turn an assembly plant worker into a data scientist overnight, if at all. The Industrial Revolution played out of several decades and yet still caused massive social upheaval, unrest and widespread deprivation for many. The digital revolution may happen much faster, across large areas of a complex, interconnected economy that has very tight in-built feedback loops.
Others are concerned that this time is different and that we are facing a permanent reduction in the need for human labour. While many initially viewed this as economically naïve, some experts – including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers – are now not so sure. Science fiction has long imagined a future where we no longer have to work and can spend our time on more noble pursuits. Could it be that we are reaching that inflection point in human history?
If we are, neither our social norms nor our economic systems are ready for it. Today, self-worth is inherently tied up with jobs, professions, careers and trades. And in a global economy based on neoclassical models of capitalism, mass unemployment spells depression, not utopia.
On the question of jobs, William Gibson’s famous aphorism may hold true: “The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed.” Certainly, some of these concerns can seem academic or blinkered from the context of a developing country looking to develop key industries and provide employment for its people. At the other extreme, we can already see post-industrial pockets in different advanced economies, from Detroit to Japan. A recent Atlantic article explored the possible futures that may play out in a world without work. It painted a mixed picture: on the one hand, we might have the time and freedom to explore our creativity and passions; on the other, we might be heading for a “gig economy” where smaller parcels of work replace the security of full-time jobs.
The extent to which we replace or transform jobs, or the extent to which this is a transitional shift or a permanent change, is not predefined. We have a choice over how we want to use technology, over which path we take and over which scenario emerges. Perhaps the question is not a theoretical one, nor an empirical one, but one of intent and principle: what kind of society do we want to have?
Have you read?
How do you create jobs in a low-growth world?
How automation will change the way we live and work
What can nanotech do for job creation?
Author: Derek O’Halloran, Head of Information Technology and Electronics Industries, World Economic Forum
Image: Umbrellas are held by robots produced by KUKA Robot Group, at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover March 14, 2015. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen
Derek O'Halloran, Head of Digital Economy and Society System Initiative, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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Technology can very well be termed as an enhanced route to a target that is yet to be improved. Innovation and technology go hand in hand. Technology is all about the changing of ideas into something tangible. Innovation is not only for those organizations and individuals who are creative, but also requires the presence of scientific and technological talent. Technology has without doubt transformed our lives into something much better.
If we were to actually compare the way we live today and how life was a few years back, we will definitely notice how much technology has transformed our lives. It has given us a lot of freedom and also a lot of ways to save on resources and time. It is not possible to give one particular type of technology credit for all this change. How much the economy of a nation has grown can be measured by measuring the level of technology that they have achieved. This is all due to the fact that there are various factors that affect how an individual lives. The most vital factor dictating how a certain technology works is the presence of competition. A type of technology will only be beneficial until its advancement is produced.
How technology has impacted our lives:
Arguably, the one piece of technology that has been most effective in our lives today is cell phones which are today considered a show of civilization. Owing to the many changes taking place in the technological world, the dependency on technology is growing with each passing day. There are advancements that take place at a very fast rate to the point that at one point they turn out to be self-defeating. The ability to transform carbon dioxide to fuel energy is a great breakthrough and the moment it is well set up, it will forever change the way we depend on limited and non-renewable sources.
The use of the internet is growing at a very fast rate with each passing day. The internet literally links more than 700 million people from all corners of the world. This technology is without doubt state of the art and has served to greatly better the way we communicate and also the educational standards. Owing to this great innovation in technology, it is possible for a person to get information on any topic from anywhere at any time. It has made education easily available to each and every person. It has also made improvisations on so many ways we use to satisfy our needs and meet all expectations. It has provided us with much easier and faster ways to solve urgent problems.
Also read: Importance of technology in education
The great technological revolution has brought about online databases, personalized web pages, discussion rooms and chat rooms. The Information technology sector has fully transformed human communication with the likes of instant messaging, video conferencing and emails. Technology has helped people to construct bridges to reduce the distance in their head. One drawback that has come with all this is the changing of people into lethargic beings owing to the high technological trends. It has greatly reduced people’s ability to pay attention. Computerization, automation and robotics are on the move to transform our lives. Getting the robotics implemented will help us to get cheaper labor and higher efficiency which will result in more productivity.
Technology caught the world by storm and the advancements that are still being made with each passing day are without doubt hitting the world with a bang. Technology has definitely changed the way we live our lives in a big way making everything much easier and faster. It has turned the world into a global village and it is no longer necessary for one to physically be in a place to be able to communicate with someone or perform some other activity. So, we can say that technology has greatly impacted our lives.
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