The world is changing extremely fast. 10 years ago, there was no such thing as an iPhone, social media was an entirely new concept, and the term “hashtagging” made no sense whatsoever. With the rapidly growing increases in technology and automation, job security is an important thing to consider.
The digital (or information) age is the next great leap forwards in our world as we know it. The last major leap was the industrial revolution, which completely altered the way the world worked. Before the industrial revolution, entrepreneurship in the form of small business, was the norm. Think blacksmiths, butchers, farmers, tailors etc. Then the industrial revolution happened, and advances in machinery completely changed all of that.
So what does this mean for all of us who are in the middle of the new digital age? If we look back to the start of the industrial revolution, we can get some context…
Before the industrial revolution, horses were used everywhere in life. Transport, agriculture, manual labor… they weren’t short of jobs. Then the industrial revolution happened, and we created cars, tractors, heavy machinery, all of which outperformed horses in every way, making them redundant.
Nowadays, how much of your day to day life do horses form a part of? They crop up here and there, but not much. Now their main purpose is recreational. They were outperformed and replaced by machines, because the value of their labor drastically decreased.
However those machines still needed humans to operate them, hence the massive boom in industry where skilled labor was in demand. Factories were filled with factory workers, the education system taught kids how to work as a factory drone for a big company for their whole life, then retire on a big pension. The 40/40 plan (40 hours a week for 40 years) was the way that the world worked back then.
Since then, things have moved on a lot. The digital transformation is completely altering the way industry works, through two specific areas; automation, and connectivity.
Automation is “the use or introduction of automatic equipment in a manufacturing or other process or facility.”
An example of automation, would be self-service checkouts at your local supermarket. They don’t need a cashier; they do everything automatically. The job of 20 cashiers, can now be done by 20 machines overlooked by one person.
Another example, would be self-driving trucks. The first self-driving tucks are set to hit the roads of San Francisco before the end of this year. Since trucks obviously do not need to sleep, they can cover around double the mileage that a human driver can, and much more cost effectively. You can read an article about them here.
Development of AI is increasing at an alarming rate. There’s a Chinese game called Go, which requires years and years of practice to master. It is infinitely more complicated than chess, and mostly relies on intuition and instinct to win. However, Google have developed an AI (called Deepmind) that managed to beat the world’s leading Go player 4 games to 1. You can read an article that was written after the first of the 5 games, here.
Customer service robots have been developed that are proving more cost effective, than outsourcing to customer service agents in India or the Philippines. These robots are indistinguishable from actual humans, and when tested, the test subjects did not realise that they weren’t talking to a real person. An article about this can be found here.
Automation is ensuring that human labor is very quickly becoming a useless and outdated commodity.
Connectivity is bridging the gap between product and consumer on a global scale. Think back 40 years. If you wanted to buy a book you would go to your bookshop, who would have purchased that book from a wholesaler, who would have purchased the book from a manufacturer, who would have publishing rights from the author. Also the manufacturer would have bought paper and printing ink through separate suppliers, who would have in turn bought the materials from different manufacturers…
There was a long chain involving many different businesses, each with their own profit margins and their own service, and each employing their own employees performing specific functions in that chain.
Nowadays, should you still want to buy a physical book, where do you go? Straight to Amazon no doubt. Then it’s delivered straight to your doorstep, all by one company. No more high street, which wipes out an entire part of the chain, and an entire layer of businesses and employees with it. But you know what? That’s not even the scary part.
The E-Learning industry is rapidly growing, and is now worth $107 billion per year. And what’s E-learning? E-learning consists of e-books, e-training platforms, webinars, digital training programs, and basically any training or educational product that exists and can be downloaded in a digital form.
By using connectivity, an author can write a book, and leverage automated marketing systems and e-payment software to sell that book to the consumer, thereby wiping out every single other point in that chain. No more bookshop, wholesaler, manufacturer, publishing company, ink suppliers, paper suppliers, ink manufacturers or paper manufacturers. How many companies and how many jobs disappear into thin air?
The transition into a new world
Connectivity is reshaping the world as we know it. The gap between the consumer and the product or service is rapidly reducing. Think of the largest taxi company in the world. Do you know who they are? How many taxis do they own? The answer is Uber, and they don’t own a single taxi. Think of the largest hotel company in the world. How many hotels do they own? It’s Airbnb, and they don’t own a single hotel.
Did you know Uber recently purchased Otto? That’s the company that created the tech for the self-driving trucks mentioned above. GM motors also purchased Lyft; Uber’s biggest competitor. Both of these acquisitions clearly demonstrate that the race is on to be the first to create and own a global fleet of autonomous, self-driving vehicles.
Coupled with those you have Tesla, and also Ford who are in the midst of creating their own self-driving vehicles as well. Imagine that; you use your Uber app to book a car, which shows up automatically, and takes you to your destination, all without a single human ever being involved in the process…
Digital connectivity, like automation, is eradicating the need for humans and human labour. The divide between product and consumer is drastically closing, and even when there are still stages in the process, automation is meaning that machines can do the work of humans far more cost effectively.
The lies from above
Politicians will tell us that as the digital age develops, “new industries will be created and new jobs will arise to replace the old jobs that are getting lost from industrial sectors”. Really? Where are the horses’ new jobs? What are their new roles in our society to replace the roles that were wiped out by industrial advancements? If machines can now operate and build machines, if AI can outperform the human mind, and if automation can be utilised far more cost effectively than human labour… then the value of human labour, just like horses’ labour, is rapidly diminishing.
The digital age isn’t creating new markets. It’s tranforming existing markets, by taking humans out the equation.
The school system tells us that we need to get good grades, get a good job, and work hard to get promoted until we eventally retire on a decent pension. This advice is decades out of date.
Schools will tell you that if you get yourself tens of thousands of pounds into debt, and commit 7 years+ learning medicine, then you can become a doctor. However doctors will be made redundant when machines can analyze and then diagnose patients against a global database of all medical knowledge ever published. No doctor could know even a fraction of that knowledge.
What will these trainee doctors do then? Even now, countless people are coming out of university with degrees, but no hope of getting a job in their chosen field.
Think you’re safe because you’re in sales? Think again. Think management roles won’t be affected? Dream on. Technology will continue to advance at an alarming rate, and 95% of the population’s current perception of what a job actually is, will soon no longer exist. This article is not just an overview of how the world is changing, this is very real for every single working person on this planet right now.
How you can protect yourself
Unless you’re about to retire, this is a very real situation that everyone is going to have to face pretty soon in their lives. Those who come out extremely profitable, will be those who understand the situation and can take advantage of it. Those who struggle, will be those who bury their heads in the sand and wait until it’s too late, at which point they’ll already be left high and dry.
Your world as we know it is about to change in the years to come. Be prepared for the change.
To your success,