Automation: Part I

2 min read

Bruno Caprettini and Hans-Joachim Voth wrote “Over the last 200 years, new machines have increasingly replaced humans, and even advanced tasks like speech recognition and translation can now be performed by relatively cheap computers and smartphones.”

Since the beginning, mankind has always attempted to move towards a more technologically inclined way of living. This evolutionary process has always sparked great debate, particularly among those directly affected by any form of revolutionary technological advancements, namely the middle/working class. Recently, this debate has been resurrected as the business world has seen a spike in technological advancements which contribute to environmental responsibility and cost saving for organisations. Most importantly, companies see fit to invest in technology due to the increased productivity, as we know, machines do not get tired and rarely cause errors.

That being said, it is imperative to understand what automation means for the human resources and skill it displaces in the workplace. The first industrial revolution occurred between the late 1700s and 1800s, with the textile industry applying modern production techniques. Currently we are in what is known as the fourth industrial revolution, which is consistent of cyber-physical systems and it is predicted that 50% of organisations believe in the application of Artificial Intelligence and that by 2030 there will be approximately 800 million workers worldwide who will have been displaced by technology, something we’ve already seen with self-checkout tills in grocery stores for example. This has seen a lot of individuals and groups voice their concerns with regards to job security, which is well within their rights, as the global labour industry has a split opinion on the matter.

As contributors to society, both natural and juristic persons are responsible for containing the loss of work and the possibility that certain skills will become obsolete. On the part an individual, one needs to understand that technological advancements are in fact, inevitable and that a majority of them will render certain jobs obsolete. However, it is noteworthy to point out that they also creates new ones. Therefore as an individual with a fear that your skill might fall victim to the “robot uprising”, it is your responsibility to research and discover what other avenues of related work may show up should a machine replace you, thus spotting the opportunity and exploiting it.

Organisations on the other hand, particularly those operating in geographical locations with ample human resources such as Africa or Asia have the responsibility and duty of identifying new jobs created by technology and further, have to make training provisions for employees currently employed at a particular company. It is the social responsibility and the duty of the organisation to ensure there is adequate skills transfer to those who will seemingly be displaced by new technological systems. It is through organisation wide training programs that potential labour unrest can be dealt with, organisations cannot simply displace workers without making future provisions for them, as your systems improve with technology, so should your people!

The Change Recruitment Group recently wrote that “over 25% of companies think automation will result in the emergence of new roles.” Stating that “most, believe that robots would eradicate the rather dull aspects of our work and allow humans to focus on more challenging, fulfilling tasks leading to an overall happier and more productive society.”  In a 2018 report The World Economic Forum stated that “if managed wisely, these transformations could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, pose the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality and broader polarization.” This statement is indicative of how important the role of the organisation will play in leading society into the “new age”, as the overall management lies with correct implementation and the accommodation of soon to be displaced workers, as displaced workers can eventually become a massive contributor to social unrest.

It is imperative that we as individuals ensure that we keep our ever evolving juristic persons in check by calling for skills programs related to technological advancement. It is also important for governments to employ legislative actions which will enforce the application of such programs within companies. The world is changing, we should fight to change with it.

Automation Part II: Coming Soon.

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