David Galea

Chief Executive Officer, BEAT

David Galea is the Chief Executive Officer of BEAT (www.beatconsult.com)

Jobs In The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Monday 18th February 2019

When examining the past, it becomes clear that advancements in technology have undoubtedly been the leading driver in the progression of human civilisation. Just like the wheel and compass revolutionised previous generations, developments of the smartphone and the Internet have completely changed society today, making it hard to even imagine a world without them.

Technology is the result of the evolution of human innovation, as each previous industrial revolution has progressively freed man to think and create. Throughout history, we’ve always found ways to make our basic survival require less of our human focus, while making room for new professions designed to allow man to thrive, rather than simply subsist. There is no doubt that the invention of flight, the moon landing and the digital revolution we saw at the end of the 20th century would not have happened if so much of our workforce hadn’t been free to explore the frontiers of human understanding.

We now stand on the precipice of a new revolution, the complete automation of professions once thought to be inextricably human-operated. Intelligent machines are already being employed in ways we never thought possible a few years ago. Thanks to advancements like deep learning, automation is proving itself more adept than humans at diagnostics and analysis. Automated functions are quickly becoming as qualified as humans when it comes to logic-based tasks, and as machines become smarter and more capable, they will continue to assume these types of roles in virtually every field, from accounting to transportation, to information technology and to security.

Many think about this Fourth Industrial Revolution – automation, machine learning, mobile computing and artificial intelligence – as something scary, as the triumph of machines over man. The truth is that while machines may be able to match us in logic, when it comes to creativity, they are woefully inadequate. There are really only two human enterprises: creation and implementation. We design things, come up with interesting strategies and ideas, and then we execute them. Whether that means building a physical product, writing code, or organising a global supply chain, all are channels for expressing our creative ideas and manifesting those ideas in the physical world. We build technology to help us on the implementation side (for the most part). The world will always need human brilliance, human ingenuity and human skills. The technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to empower people to a far greater degree than in the past - unlocking the latent creativity, perception and imagination of human beings at every level of every organisation.

However, one thing is for sure: the 'automation revolution' will change what it means to be employable. To have jobs, people will have to do creative work, or work in a service industry that requires the human touch. The field of entertainment will still be dominated by human ingenuity, and in the service industries, although machines might perform the actual services, humans will still be required for the social part of the equation. We will also require a combination of subject-matter experts and engineers who teach, train, and give feedback to machines to do certain tasks. Automation will also change everything about how we conduct business today, and entrepreneurship will quickly take centre stage. Building a product and getting it manufactured at scale, marketed and sold, however, will be the job of one entrepreneur, rather than that of an entire company.

The transition will not be an easy one; not everyone who is made redundant by automation will be able to find a new job in a different capacity.  Many jobs will indeed be gone for good, and many household incomes will fall drastically as a result. On the other hand, machines will be able to do almost everything far more cheaply than humans. Average incomes will drop, but so will the average cost of production, driving down the price of goods and services. This means that, even though unemployment will increase, the standards of living could actually rise, not fall.