Opinion / 11 September 2019, 09:18am / Bilal Kathrada
Did you know that half of today’s jobs will become obsolete in the next 15 years? According to Kai-fu Lee, one of China’s leading artificial intelligence (AI) experts, nearly 50% of all jobs today will be automated by 2034.
As technology becomes more advanced many jobs traditionally performed by humans are being taken up by machines.
Just a few years ago, self-driving vehicles were pure science fiction. Today, thanks to massive advancements in technology, there is a global movement to make autonomous vehicles a norm on our roads.
Similarly, advancements in AI have given computers the ability to converse in such perfectly natural way that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell if you are talking to a person or a machine. Just these two advancements will be directly responsible for the death of at least a dozen careers within the next five years, among them taxi drivers, secretaries, call centre agents and personal assistants.
As technology continues to advance, we’ll see more professions disappearing. While this trend may be alarming, it is nothing new. We are living in a time new technologies are constantly replacing old ones – and when this happens, people working with the old tech have to move on.
This has been a recurring pattern for at least five decades. A few years ago we had VCRs, cassette players, CD players and DVD players for watching movies and listening to audio tracks.
These technologies were truly revolutionary, and completely transformed the movie and music industries in their time. They and spawned entire industries which employed hundreds of thousands of people.
Then there were factories that manufactured the cassettes, CDs or DVDs that ran on these devices which themselves employed tens of thousands of people.
The video rental industry, which employed thousands of people in video rental stores, was also a victim of this revolution. But when was the last time you watched a movie on a VCR, a CD or DVD? They have been replaced by memory sticks, external hard disks and streaming media.
The question is, as these technologies have been phased out, what has happened to the millions of people who worked in industries related to them? We have not seen tens of thousands of people become unemployed.
Most likely, they moved on to other professions. As some technologies become obsolete, others replace them and people simply get into those.
New technologies always create new opportunities. The result is the emergence of new fields and new careers that did not exist previously. In fact, the top-10 in-demand jobs today did not exist 10 years ago.
Most people don’t realise that wi-fi technology was barely standardised 10 years ago. Yet today, dozens of people are working in those fields, which are still expanding. The trouble, it seems, is not a lack of work, but a lack of skilled people.
According to Lee, AI may be the future, but professions like therapists, nurses, teachers or doctors will always remain with humans. Lee further says that innovative and creative professions are also safe. This includes art, graphics and design, engineering and scientific research. But he does warn that education will need to adapt to the new landscape.
* Bilal Kathrada is an educational technologist, speaker, author, newspaper columnist and entrepreneur. He is the founder of CompuKids, a start-up that teaches children Computer Science skills. Bilal blogs at www.bilalkat.com.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.