Automation can create jobs if you are willing to learn – Economic Times
The recent reports of robots taking over jobs are alarming for many employees and job-seekers. What will happen to the teeming graduates coming out of our colleges? According to HfS Research, 640,000 IT workers in India engaged in low-level tasks won’t be replaced by machines.
But 10 categories of professionals including cashiers, drivers, factory workers and journalists will be wiped out. Teachers will become bots, BPO workers will be replaced by Artificial Intelligence software, cars will be driverless.
Would you need a human police force in the future? All this makes one believe that automation and jobs have an inverse relationship: more automation means fewer jobs. But hold your horses – or your automobiles that replaced them.
There has never been a time in history when there was no disruption. Some 200 years ago, when agriculture was first mechanised, farmers sat around bonfires wondering what their children would do as living when they grew up. They ultimately moved from farm to factories with the Industrial Revolution in Europe creating and re-creating millions of jobs. Now in the Digital Age, the initial slow pace of automation has picked up steam. When computers showed up on a mass scale in India in offices, bankers went on strike fearing job losses. Many of those who saw no future took voluntary retirement.
But as we know all too well by now, computers created more jobs than they took away. Progress is the result of disruptions. New ideas and industries are not born out of doing the same thing over and over again, but doing things differently. We live in a world where Airbnb, the largest accommodation provider owns no real estate and Uber, the largest taxi service doesn’t own any car.
Both companies use deep computing, AI to match demand and supply. What scares people now is the pace of disruption —it’s faster than what most people can comprehend. About one-third of IT jobs engaged in software testing have been lost to automated systems that ensure bug-free software. So a 22-year-old who specialised as a software tester around 2000, now as a 38-year-old is either jobless or has re-skilled to have a job.
Airbnb, with operations in 196 countries, had 18,000 registered properties in India on its platform even before it opened its office here two months ago and even employed any staff. When Whatsapp was sold to Facebook, it had only 55 employees. For some countries like the US, automation means they can resurrect their factories without depending on cheap Chinese labour spewing out everything from iPhones to $10 Wal-Mart T-shirts.
In India with about 1 million entering the workforce every month, the 40-year stint is dead — multiple jobs across diverse industries will become the norm. So an IT guy could sell merchandise or write code for 3D manufacturing printers, while an etailer could be part of automated design systems. Fears of job losses to automation are real as most people are unwilling to upgrade themselves like Android did from Cupcake to Donut to Lollipop to Marshmallow.
It’s never going to be that easy for a 40-year-old to re-skill himself, but there’s little choice now. When horse-driven carriages and buggies became cars, more jobs were created. Some will survive the change and many will perish. Many will consult also astrologers. They should rather heed the wise words of futurologist Alvin Toffler who passed away last month: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.