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On Digitisation and When You Will Lose Your Job


DigitisationSo, we are now in an age where the expansion of digital functions across our economies is becoming ubiquitous. What does this mean for you and your role in the future?

I was spurred to ponder this after reading an article by Gillian Tett in the Financial Times this week.  It really gets you thinking about what the impact of the increasing use and application of digital technologies is going to have on us in the years to come.

Tett makes the interesting observation in her article that the industrialisation that happened a couple of centuries ago during the Industrial Revolution enabled displaced farm workers to obtain work in factories.  This then lead to the development of ever-larger cities and industrial complexes that have now, possibly, reached their zenith. The new digital economy means that a lot of people no longer need to be tied to a particular venue to enable work to be done. New products and services are available that allow people to work from “wherever” and, to a certain extent, “whenever’.

What does this mean for you and me? In my role, we’re seeing new offerings every week that make the whole process of running a business more streamlined and (hence, theoretically) efficient. They allow access from anywhere you can get an internet connection and you can basically sit on a beach and do your figures. Wonderful. Or is it?

How will the new age being rapidly foisted upon us create the wealth that we seem to seek? Will it actually lead to a higher quality of life? Or will it get us to the point that we are so reliant on computerised things that we effectively become redundant? If this is the case, what will we do? Will it be a life of “beer and skittles” or will it be a life of IT-driven poverty?

There is no question that those leading the charge in the world of apps, big data and IT will make an absolute killing. There is no question that there will still need to be resources supplied and food grown. There is little doubt that many of the tasks we humans used to undertake to do these things will soon be taken over by computers. If this is the case, are we then in a position we we are serving them rather than the other way around?

Being somewhat melodramatic, are we heading down the path to worlds “forseen” by the Wachowski brothers (writers of “The Matrix”) or James Cameron et al (“The Terminator”)?

But, we can take some comfort in the fact that our very “human-ness” will serve to ensure that dystopian futures such as those mentioned above can not and do not happen. We only need to have a listen to the likes of Simon Sinek and others who point out that what we really value are our human interactions and relationships. These cannot be replaced by machines (I may be somewhat delusional here) and I don’t believe that anyone wants to see this type of future created.

Luddites destroyed the new means of production in the knitting mills in England centuries ago. They saw them as a threat to society. I am not arguing that we need to address or limit the expansion of the new digital economy – rather I am arguing that we need to ensure that we grasp the opportunities it will present whilst embracing the fact that we are and will remain human.

The time has come where most people tend to have 2-dimensional relationships with a lot of people (and businesses) they deal with. I believe that we need to ensure that the 3-dimensional relationships (or, maybe 4-dimensional so that it includes time) that we enjoy are maintained. The new economy might even enable us to have more time to spend on these things – but we’re not seeing that happen just yet…

When you think about your role and what keeps you busy when you’re not at home, think about how that can be replaced in some form or other by a computer, app or drone. Chances are, this situation is coming sooner than you think.

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