A little more than a decade ago, dozens of the jobs we now take for granted didn’t even exist. Social media managers, cloud service specialists, and professional drone racers would’ve all seemed out of this world to the average person in the early 2000s.
The technological changes made since then haven’t just impacted the kind of jobs that are available, but how we do those jobs too. Whole companies can be built without the staff ever setting foot in the same office, people can print out 3D prototypes in a matter of minutes, and many can carry everything they need to do their job in a single pocket.
But what does the future of work look like? What changes will the next decade, and beyond, bring? It’s hard to tell, but if the following TED talks are anything to go by, we’re in for a wild ride.
Andrew McAfee: What will future jobs look like?
One of the greatest fears of workers throughout the ages has been of machines taking their jobs. It’s something that has happened in the past. And, as economist Andrew McAfee points out in this TED Talk, it will continue to happen in the future. The nature of technology means that it’ll likely happen much faster and across a much wider variety of fields though.
McAfee does not, however, believe that this means we’ll end up handing over our souls to our robot overlords. Instead, he suggests that with the right facts and understanding, we can build a society where humans are freed from drudgery and toil and where innovation and creativity are the primary goals.
Erik Brynjolfsson: The key to growth? Race with the machines
Another TED alumnus, who doesn’t think we should fear the rise of the machines, is American academic Erik Brynjolfsson.
Some believe that technological advancements and automation means stagnant growth at a great cost to jobs and economies. Brynjolfsson is more optimistic.
He believes that we’re simply experiencing the growing pains of a radically reorganised economy. And, if we want to get things right, we need to think of “the machines” as teammates rather than competitors.
Wingham Rowan: A new kind of job market
The rise of services such as Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRabbit has dramatically impacted the way we think about making money.
But, says policy entrepreneur Wingham Rowan, they’re actually pretty slow when you compare them to the services available to organisations at the top of the economy.
The opportunity waiting to be exploited, Rowan believes, is one which allows people with flexible hours to connect meaningfully with employers that have flexible needs.
Rainer Strack: The Workforce Crisis of 2030—and how to start solving it now
It may sound a little counter-intuitive, especially given how much space we’ve dedicated to automation in this piece, but the year 2030 could see a major talent shortage in developed countries.
If they’re to overcome those challenges and keep growing, those countries will have to look elsewhere for talent.
Before they can do that however, Rainer Strack says, these countries need to help the businesses within them change their corporate cultures.
Anthony Goldbloom: The jobs we’ll lose to machines — and the ones we won’t
Machine learning is one of the most complex, but important trends driving automation in the workplace.
Where machines could once only beat humans at things like assessing credit scores and sorting mail. Today they can grade school papers and diagnose diseases.
According to Anthony Goldbloom, that means machines will take many jobs. He suggests, however, that computers struggle when they’re presented with novel situations. Goldbloom therefore believes that people in jobs that present these on a daily basis – copywriting and business strategy being two examples – will be safely employed for a long time to come.