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A fear of robots replacing humans has been around since the early days of the Industrial Age – and so far has proven to be unfounded. At every successive stage of work process automation, and even after the advent of computers, the humans have found ways to thrive and grow.

Still, the deep seated fear of machines has never gone away and has even found creative expression in pop and movie culture. Remember Skynet or Space Odyssey, anyone?

The rapid growth of robotics, smart technologies (smart phones, TVs, smart appliances, etc), and an imminent revolution in artificial intelligence have rekindled the debate. Today’s robots are not just randomly present in the workplace—they’re moving up the corporate ladder, outperforming and pushing aside their human work buddies,  beating them in work performance, productivity, diversity of skills, and high retention rates.

It takes a super robot from Momentum Machines only 10 seconds to make a gourmet burger.  Add to this a robot a bit of a character – Google has started building worker robots with personalities – and the entire McDonald’s crew is gone.

No one doubts anymore that technology has the power to devastate entire industries and disrupt various sectors of the job market. The World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, quoted data predicting that increased mechanization and technology disruption will threaten to eliminate up to 69% of jobs in India, or 77% in China. These are significant numbers – running into several hundred million people affected!

It would be a mistake though to think that only developing economies are at risk. A study by the Oxford Martin School and Citi has put about 57% of workers around the world at risk of being replaced by automation and new technologies.

Increasingly, as machines become smarter, fewer jobs will be necessary. The world can end up with an enormous population of the unemployed – drivers, warehouse workers, teachers, administrators, cooks, paralegals, even programmers, telemarketers, accountants, sports referees, secretaries, cashiers and many more, whose jobs have been replaced by intelligent machines.  

As Martin Ford writes in his New York Times bestseller Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future,

“Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making even good jobs obsolete. As progress continues, blue and white collar jobs alike will evaporate, causing massive unemployment and the implosion of the consumer economy itself.”

According to a Bloomberg report there would be over 700 occupations at risk of computer automation. The Oxford University Study listed jobs at risk of disappearing by the degree of impact:

Jobs at risk

And one really doesn’t need to wait far into future to see and experience the disruptive effects of technology. Driverless vehicles are already a reality, as is robotic stock trading. Advanced robots are performing eye surgery halfway across the globe. The risk to jobs is across the spectrum – from blue to white collar jobs.

What could we, The Humans, do?

Whatever your job, if it involves doing repetitive tasks, stop for a moment and ask: could a robot do this job better? The answer, unfortunately for you, is probably – yes.

To position yourself favorably for the future of work, you need an open mind to operate outside your comfort zone, to stay ahead with the knowledge of latest digital tools and applications and be a multi-disciplinary expert with diversified range of skills.

In all probability, human beings will find the ways to adapt to the current wave of technological innovation – as they have done before . Cases in point – Uber and Airbnb – which disrupted the traditional taxi and holiday stay industries, but created huge opportunities for those who chose to adapt.

Success comes to the prepared, and there are several ways modern workers can get ready:

1. Broaden your skills to stay ahead in a globally connected world.

Hundreds of millions of global workers are exposed to a huge risk by doing little to upgrade their job skills. There may not be enough time to retrain, if you don’t start early enough. Whilst we had three centuries to transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, we will only have a couple of decades to transition to the Age of Robots & Joblessness.

A solid education and a diverse skill-set is probably the best bet against losing your job to redundancy, or worse, to robots. Focus on acquiring a range of employable skills – technology is your friend here. Massive open online courses and online learning and teaching marketplaces provide an opportunity to acquire world-class learning right from your smartphone.

2. Build Your Personal Brand & Business

In the work areas that will grow, most of the work available will be likely project-based, with diverse skilled people coming together as a team to complete a project. 

It takes time to build an effective personal brand online and to build the network of contacts.  Start early and embrace the sharing ‘gig economy”, also called ‘on-demand economy’. With an increase in the proportion of millennials in the workforce, who value the freedom to choose where and when they work, the sharing economy is indeed set to grow.

3. Make the most out of online marketplaces

The world is really your oyster when it comes to exploring a market for your skills today.

With global connectivity over internet, you could tap into an international market for services and products, and offer your skills at places where they are most needed. Online skills marketplaces connect you to global businesses, where the right people with the right skills are employed, regardless of where they live.

ZippyCrowd is an emerging skills marketplace and a talent community  making it easy for you to turn your talents and hobbies into a thriving business, and find skilled people backed by friends. Social reputation and friends’s recommendations are at the heart of making ZippyCrowd work. Join our talented community , #getzippy and do it with friends.


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