This article captures views expressed by Deanna Ong, GIC’s Chief People Officer, at a panel “Man vs Machine” organised by the Nanyang Business School Alumni Office.
In this age of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), workers may worry machines will take over their jobs. But by leveraging the very traits that make us human, we can ensure our continued relevance in the workplace of tomorrow.
The growing trend of automation and digitalisation
Automation and digitalisation are not new. With the first industrial revolution in the late 1700s, we saw the use of mechanical production, steam power, and railroads. The second revolution took place in the late 1800s with the advent of electricity and mass production. In the 1970s, the third revolution furthered automation through information technology (IT), electronics, and computers.
We are in the midst of yet another wave of change, driven by cloud computing, AI, advanced digitalisation, and the Internet of Things. Our lives have already been transformed by technology.
This affects all industries. Software and AI-powered technologies can retrieve information, handle inventories and logistics, prepare briefs, provide financial services, translate documents, audit statements, diagnose diseases, and even mix cocktails and prepare barista-quality coffee. Computers offer a 24/7 service – processing vast amounts of data faster, more reliably, and more objectively. Going forward, the next generation of robotics and automation will be even more transformative.
The impact on jobs
There have been many forecasts on the impact of automation on jobs. According to a 2018 World Economic Forum study, more than 75 million jobs may be lost in the next four years as companies shift to more automation. Another 133 million new jobs will emerge in the same period, as businesses develop a new division of labour between humans and machines. Machines will create more jobs than they displace by 2022.
At the same time, in many markets, the working population is aging, and in some cases, already shrinking . UN World Population Prospects projects that by 2050, more than a third of the entire world’s population will be above the age of 50. Leveraging automation technologies can help to balance the effects of a shrinking workforce as well as an increasing share of older workers.
With the strengths that sophisticated machines offer, and the shrinking workforce, the trend of growing automation is expected to continue.
Where humans hold the advantage
But humans are superior to machines in three important ways: