When it comes to understanding where the world is going, it’s hard to beat TED. What started out as an exclusive, invite-only conference has become a global speaking empire, with events taking place around the globe.
Given TED’s focus on “ideas worth spreading”, as well as its Silicon Valley roots, it should hardly be surprising that technology is a major theme in the talks shared by TED. And as technology’s role in the workplace becomes more significant, it’s become an increasingly prevalent topic in its own right.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the time to sift through the TED site looking for those talks.
With that in mind, here are a few of our favourites:
Oliver Scalabre: The next manufacturing revolution is here
In this 2016 talk, delivered at TED@BCG Paris, Oliver Scalabre suggests that we are on the verge of a new manufacturing revolution.
This revolution, he posits, will get us out of the growth slump the world’s experienced for the past 50 or so years.
According to Scalabre, most manufacturing developments over the past few years have done little for growth and productivity.
As for technology? Well developments in that space have largely come at the expense of productivity.
Thing is, when you combine cutting edge technologies with innovative production techniques, the picture starts to look very different.
Erik Brynjolfsson: The key to growth? Race with the machines
Speaking of growth, Erik Brynjolfsson posits that one major reason that new, general purpose technologies, haven’t sparked growth is because the managers in most organisations don’t know how to use them properly.
The idea, he suggests, is that we need to think of computers as our teammates rather than tools.
Oh, and we also need to realise that some of the most valuable technologies we interact with on a daily basis aren’t properly counted in most GDP calculations.
David Autor: Will automation take away all our jobs?
Filmed at TEDxCambridge in 2016, this talk covers a question many of us ask ourselves in our darkest moments: could my job be taken away by automation?
If history is anything to go by, Autor says, the answer isn’t all that clear. You see, despite a century of creating machines to do our work for us, the proportion of adults in the US with a job has consistently gone up for the past 125 years.
Why is that? Well, while technology reduces the amount of labour needed to do specific tasks, it also makes it cheaper for companies to expand into new locations and areas of revenue.
Andrew McAfee: What will future jobs look like?
Another tech optimist, Andrew McAfee suggest that, yes, droids will probably take our jobs. At least, they’ll take the things we think of as jobs now.
But, he says, this actually the best economic news we have right now. Technological advancements, he points out, mean that productivity and quality of output go up. But they also mean that humans are freed from drudgery and toil, allowing them to achieve their full potential.
Rainer Strack: The workforce crisis of 2030 — and how to start solving it now
If you’re looking for doom and gloom predictions about technology’s role in the workplace, TED probably isn’t the best place to look.
In this 2014 talk, veteran consultant Rainer Strack posits that, while technology and automation will take some jobs, that’ll only be a problem in the short-term.
By 2030, he says, some countries will have more jobs than people who can fill them and will have to encourage immigration.
Rodney Brooks: Why we will rely on robots
Many people, especially in the manufacturing space, are terrified that their jobs will be taken by robots. As in, the kind of physical robots we would once have only seen on sci-fi.
But according to robot builder Rodney Brooks, they can become our essential collaborators, freeing us up to spend time on less mundane and mechanical challenges.
Another thing to bear in mind, he says, is that many countries face a rapidly ageing population with much fewer people available to work in the near future.
Robots will therefore not only be useful in the workplace, but also at home as domestic helpers.
Do you have a favourite TED Talk on technology in the workplace? Let us know in the comments section below.