Is the future about robots or humans?

21 August 2017

We’re in the midst of a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Automation and thinking machines are already replacing tasks previously done by humans and are causing a re-evaluation of the skills that organisations need and the relationships they have with their workers.

The robots are coming they say. We hear of little else.

What’s far more complicated is predicting where today’s technological developments will take us.  What’s our place in an automated world? Will work exist at all in its current form? What should we be telling our children? And how do we prepare them - and ourselves - for a world that’s very different from today? These answers are not simple to find. They’re what we explore in our new report, Workforce of the Future: The competing forces shaping 2030.

Human decisions are certain to influence how technology is used.  Laws and regulations, trends in consumer behaviour, and citizen and worker sentiment could slow or stop the forward march - or change the course of how we use technology. Only last month we saw India’s transport minister openly resist the push towards driverless cars when he said that his government ‘would not allow any technology that takes away jobs’. The lesson here is that just because we have the tech, it doesn’t mean it will be accepted without question, but it's also important to remember that automation won't necessarily just take jobs, but instead change the nature of them.

Major employers are also starting to make business-defining decisions. In Financial Services we’re seeing Robo-advisors coming online. Organisations are making real-world choices about the kind of service that customers will pay for - and how much. This means testing out how machines and humans work in collaboration. Will customers miss (and pay for) human empathy?

No business can just sit back and wait for the future of work to happen. We have to plan for it today.  

Those organisations and workers that understand the potential futures, what each might mean for them, and plan ahead, will be best prepared to succeed. The future can’t be predicted in a linear way. That’s why we think organisations need to think about multiple and emerging visions of their own future. Our report sketches out four starkly different ‘worlds’ of work to kickstart your thinking.

 

 

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