In the future we are all being replaced by robots, some say. No, in the future, only really boring jobs are being automated. No, in the future, all non-productive jobs are being automated.
With the current hype surrounding automation, robotic process automation and Artificial intelligence, many claims are made, few are substantiated. In the long term, however, it will have a profound impact on our careers.
What is clear from the graph above is that all forms of employment will be affected by automation, in one way or another. Retail salespeople? Automated to a high degree. With Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and the introduction of the Dash Button – who needs to schlep down to a physical store to buy loo paper or detergent? Run out of it? Press the button and it’ll be delivered to your door.
If we take a long-term view, say 5-10 years, we can see clear disruptions. Looking at white collar, middle-class jobs, where a university degree and further education is needed (think law, accountancy, auditing) the picture show that these are less likely to be automated. Really?
Entry-level tasks where the newly qualified accountants (lawyers, auditors) will cut their teeth are likely to have been automated. So where does this leave the accountancy (law, auditing…) firms in terms of finding suitably hands-on jobs to offer the new recruits? As of now, companies such as SAGE, Simpletax, RocketLawyer, DoNotPay are offering bookkeeping, tax advice and legal advice online. No more office clerk sitting collecting receipts and entering them into a ledger, which need to be checked. No, Sir. Not anymore. Upload pdf documents of receipts to an online accountant in the cloud. What will the first steps of the career ladder if these have been automated?
Automation will require a new approach to how organizations such as accountants, auditors, actuaries and others train and provide further education to new recruits and to its staff. It will also require a fresh look at Universities and the courses they teach in traditional ‘academic’ subjects such as accountancy and law. This as robotics tends to be an engineering subject, taught in more technical degrees.
It leaves us with many questions that we are formulating as we go along. One is: if Automation takes away the first steps on the ‘ladder’, how can one start climbing the ladder?
Being an automation consultant myself and as this is a new field I expect the questions, suggestions and answers to be many, varied and contradictory. It’s a journey folks, and it’ll change the way we work, think and act.
Richard Ahl PhD is Program Manager at Clancarty Consulting Ltd based in London
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