Technology is set to take lots and lots of jobs away over the next few years. But is that a balanced prediction?
There has been plenty of concern voiced in recent years about the frenetic pace of information technology as a job killer. And to a large degree, these predictions are valid. There are a lot of jobs that are have been lost, or are being lost to automation.
Now, ironically, it appears that the people who produce job-killing technology are also set to find their own jobs on the chopping block. For example, with the current pace of data center automation, many IT jobs may be fading away over the next few years. CIO's J.D. Sartain, channeling several recent Gartner reports, notes that "smart machines" may soon be threatening jobs across the tech spectrum.
A wave of intelligent agents,
virtual reality assistants, expert systems and embedded software "could
significantly devalue and/or displace millions of humans in the
workforce," Gartner's Kenneth Brant is quoted as saying. Plus, Sartain continues, financial
institutions won't need as many IT staffers when they begin to "process the bulk of their transactions in the
cloud." In addition, many government agencies will pare down their
technology executive staffs when they recognize that they don't need
both chief information officers and chief digital officers.
3D printing -- singled out as a job-destroying, disruptive technology (see list below) -- also is giving rise to a new class of manufacturing operations and a maker culture, no longer dependent on manufacturing operations in some distant country.
It's not even necessary to launch a startup intended to scale into the stratosphere -- individuals can work as independent or freelancers, leveraging the power of web resources and contacts. A recent report (PDF) from MBO Partners estimates that in the U.S. alone, the number of independent workers has risen by 10% over the last two years, now totaling $18 million -- and they generated nearly $1.2 trillion in total income in 2013, up a strong 20% from 2012.
Technology initiatives over the next five years will be producing the following capabilities, all of which will displace jobs somewhere along the spectrum, as cited in the CIO article. It's notable that all these are areas of opportunity as well, however:
- Smart metering solutions (utilities)
- 3D printing
- Cloud-based big data analytics
- Software-controlled devices
- Products and appliances in fields such as fleet and facility management, transportation, warehousing, manufacturing, industrial and commercial management and surveillance
(Thumbnail photo: Honda public relations department.)