The Impact of Automation on Jobs: The Missing Dimensions

robotPew Research has a thought provoking study on the impact of algorithms and robotics on jobs. Half the experts polled are very pessimistic, the other half just pessimistic. Definitely worth a read.

What I find fascinating about these discussions is how IT centric – as in IT and impact on white collar jobs, shop floor, logistics – the focus is. That is the world many of us live in, so it is understandable.

I like to periodically go back and read the Grand Challenges that the National Academy of Engineering has laid out

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Sure many of these will need software, sensor, satellite support and other IT centric skills, but think how many chemists, mathematicians, engineers of all stripes, and biologists and other STEM skilled workers we will need to solve these challenges. And how many more we will need to deploy the solutions. And keep maintaining and improving them. And this is just the tip of the challenge iceberg. There are hundreds less pressing challenges our world faces which need talent to focus on.

The other thing we forget is old jobs never completely disappear. Did you know there are still over 50,000 dairy farms just in the US.? Most are family owned and continue to provide good livelihood to the family members. Sure automation has reduced the human element, but even after decades not eliminated all the jobs.

Finally, hardly anyone talks about the positive impact for consumers. Automation keeps prices affordable and quality consistent and production improvements quicker.

Way too many of us are quick to beat up on Amazon for not paying enough attention to Wall Street, or for buying up Kiva the robot maker or thinking of drone based deliveries. But Jeff Bezos has made famous “the empty chair” in meetings to remind his executives to be ever cognizant of the customer. Most automation discussions ignore the customer point of view

(Cross-posted @ DealArchitect Full)

LinkedIn Twitter
CEO of Deal Architect, a top advisory boutique recognized in The Black Book of Outsourcing, author of a widely praised book on technology enabled innovation, The New Polymath, prolific blogger, writing about technology-enabled innovation at New Florence, New Renaissance and about waste in technology at Deal Architect.  Previously Analyst  at Gartner, Partner with PwC Consulting. Keynoted at many business and technology conferences and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, CIO Magazine, and other executive and technology publications.