I hope you didn’t miss yesterday’s post about the World Government Summit and its full day Global Dialogue for Happiness.
I know it sounds like one of those subjects that if HR brings it up to the CEO, it’s back to the kid’s table for you. Yet, the Summit’s Happiness Dialogue was a sober discussion of well-being that involved some 300 government and business leaders, and academics from around the world.
One part of the article in particular stuck with me. Elon Musk, beyond doubt one of the most visionary of entrepreneurs, spoke at the World Government Summit. According to the article, he “pondered what governments will do in the face of mass unemployment that will unfold in the future.”
The article doesn’t explain why he thinks there will be mass unemployment, but I’ve read what Musk has said before on the subject so know he was talking about automation, when robots will displace humans.
The future is arriving faster
This is not a sci-fi futuristic vision of some distant time. This is happening now. You don’t have to remember too far back to know customer service calls used to be answered by people. The ATM has been displacing bank tellers for years, and B of A is experimenting with doing away with people entirely.
What’s different today is the speed with which jobs are being automated. The rapid advances in artificial intelligence are pushing automation into areas once thought immune. There’s a program built on IBM’s Watson platform doing legal research that would otherwise be handled by an attorney or a paralegal. Watson is also solving medical mysteries that have stumped the best specialists.
Just think of how many HR tasks have been automated.
White collar workers will be automated
“If your main job function is taking a number from one box in Excel and putting it in another box in Excel and writing a narrative about how the number got from place to place, robots are knocking at your door.”
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What other occupations does Palmer see being automated? Journalists, report writers, accountants and bookkeepers, commodity sales people (those who sell supplies, ads and similar), and doctors.
HR’s job now
If this future of white collar jobs being taken over by robots still seems too incredible, hear what Palmer says out in his latest blog post, “Life After the Robot Apocalypse“:
As I’ve been saying for years, today we are experiencing the slowest rate of technological change we will ever experience for the rest of our lives. The pace of technological progress is not going to slow down, ever! … We get to choose what life after the Robot Apocalypse will be like. Let’s choose wisely.