The more I think about technology, the more I fear it on a sociological level.
I love technology, it’s my living and my favorite hobby. The problem is that part of the way people like me make money is by making life more convenient or efficient.
My team over at Nudge Digital frequently go into companies and aid efficiency by removing paper, automating administration, using technologies to better customer experiences; basically, we reduce the human input. The great companies use this is an engine for growth, staff are re-purposed. Others use increased efficiency to cut costs. Both are reasonable and responsible things to do as a business owner with a responsibility to share holders.
Here’s the thing. The more successful we are in robotics and computer science, the more we remove jobs (as margin always need to increase and consumers drive prices down). The jobs that are inevitably removed first are the ‘less-skilled’ jobs, i.e. administrational, operational. Why? Because they are often easier to emulate and automate with a computer, and increasingly a robot. As this progresses, we also start removing the need for skilled professions. Book keeping will be almost a thing of the past in years to come. Accountants will have to actually learn to do more than put numbers in boxes on a tax return to warrant a consultancy fee (a cheap computer can do that).
As we remove more and more jobs, especially at the administrational/operational end of the corporate spectrum we are putting society in a dangerous place. The amount of unemployment will increase, while those that can retain employment will be more and more valuable.
The difficulty is, though this is going to be gradual, it is also inevitable, and the types of job we’re talking about account for a HUGE percentage of the british workforce (if anyone has the stat, please get in touch). What do they do? The state is already crippled financially and can’t support them.
Perhaps some of them will re-train to become skilled tradespeople, but that market is already crowded due to the influx of highly skilled Europeans. Maybe they’ll attempt to learn to code, but that market is also crowded with average coders, and they’ll need to be exceptional to fight for jobs with those with traditional training and years of commercial experience.
We have a hole coming in society. It’s not a commercial problem, it’s a sociological one. The only way to balance the hole emerging is for innovators to create enterprises with the need for more human jobs. But, that’s not too likely.
How do we prepare for this oncoming dilemma with an already broken welfare state?