Future Friday: The Good and the Bad of the Coming Future

ID-100207201As you might expect there will be some good things coming in the next couple of decades from increases in technology. Unfortunately there will be some less than desirable outcomes as well. A 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing produced some interesting results.

Pew Study

The Pew Study was actually a canvassing of 1,896 experts who responded to the question “Will networked, automated, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and robotic devices have displaced more jobs than they have created by 2025?” The results had four positive themes and three negative themes.

The Positive Themes

According to the canvas the positive themes the respondents gave were:

  1. Advances in technology may displace certain types of work, but historically they have been a net creator of jobs.
  2. We will adapt to these changes by inventing entirely new types of work, and by taking advantage of uniquely human capabilities.
  3. Technology will free us from day-to-day drudgery, and allow us to define our relationship with “work” in a more positive and socially beneficial way.
  4. Ultimately, we as a society control our own destiny through the choices we make.

I have written numerous times about these themes, especially number 2. Technology in the long run has always resulted in more jobs. The key will be to focus on the stuff that technology cannot due and these are the skills that make us uniquely human.

The Negative Themes

The respondents were not all wearing rose-colored glasses. They expressed there are some things to be concerned about. These include:

  1. Impacts from automation have thus far impacted mostly blue-collar employment; the coming wave of innovation threatens to upend white-collar work as well.
  2. Certain highly-skilled workers will succeed wildly in this new environment—but far more may be displaced into lower paying service industry jobs at best, or permanent unemployment at worst.
  3. Our educational system is not adequately preparing us for work of the future, and our political and economic institutions are poorly equipped to handle these hard choices.

There are certainly some areas for concern. I have written several times that HR will not be immune to being displaced by technology. If you are in a HR job where you are transactional you future may be grim.
I have also expressed a number of times the issues we are having with our educational system. We are just not preparing people to handle the future. Each company that relies on talented workers will find their resource is slowly going away. If you are in that condition you need to start looking at how to partner with education to insure you are getting the talented workers you will need.

Be an HR Futurist

This past week I presented a session on 7 Steps to being a practical HR Futurist. I think at this juncture in the world of work it is more important than ever for HR people to be thinking about the future of work. Next Friday I will write about those seven steps.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

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