Automation has been happening in different areas over time and with technological progress, it seems like a threat now. It is estimated that over two-thirds of the workforce will have no work in the next decade. While the population keeps growing around the world, the lack of work brings challenges for the future that need to be addressed today. While we will not have the same kinds of jobs in the future, there will be different jobs and we must train the future generations differently to tackle challenges of the future. However, our society has been designed around growth. Every country is ranked by growth numbers in the short and medium term. This forces everyone to keep churning good growth numbers year after year and ignore the bigger challenges that await in the future.
In order to tackle the dramatic shift in how future productivity will function – where more of the work is automated, we must be willing to take a hit on the meaningless yearly growth numbers and start working towards completely different metrics and frameworks that define growth and productivity in the future.
Our education system was designed during the industrial revolution. The factories had assembly lines, and we replicated those in the classroom. We had grades 1 through 10. Every year you progress to the next grade, and are fed with all the information from sciences to arts. The information is more detailed in each of the subjects as you progress through the grades. At the end, you come out of the assembly line of education – to work in the assembly line in factories.
Technology has already taken over repetitive tasks in the assembly line, and is now taking over tasks that require a little bit of processing (like driving fleet of trucks across the country). In the future, it will take over more tasks that need complex processing of information and decision making. What we must remember is that technology taking over these tasks is not a threat, but a time to celebrate success of human creativity. Humans have created these machines that can do our tasks for us. We must be happy that we don’t need to do those tasks anymore, and can focus on better things that matter.
We must start to get out of the mentality of working, earning money, paying taxes, contributing to GDP, and increasing the numbers every year to show growth. We must reevaluate the purpose of society, what we want to accomplish as a human society, what are the things that matter, and how we want to work towards that goal. Then we must use automation to the fullest extent everywhere to get work done for us, while we focus on the bigger picture. Yes, this means present jobs would not be available, and that will result in people not being able to pay their mortgage. But those problems are created by the current framework used by us. If we change the framework, we do not have to worry about those issues anymore. We could collectively contribute to productivity at a higher level while leveraging the machines, and reap the results to support the society with all the people in it.
There are numerous possibilities on tackling this dramatic change in workforce. However, if we keep holding on to our current models and refuse to analyze the alternatives, we will not focus on the things that matter, but will continue to focus on generating more revenues, having high GDP numbers, and “growth”. This becomes even more disastrous as the population continues to grow significantly and they go through the same old education system of the industrial revolution that would train them to obsolete tasks that have been automated. We must start to invest in alternative education systems that foster creativity and thinking. We must focus on just one skill – problem solving. Then we must leave individuals to pick their own domain of passion where they apply the critical thinking and problem solving skills. As the population continues to grow, we must make the shift otherwise we will have a bigger burden to support while automation takes over and the people are not ready for it.
The growing population adds challenges to this problem. If we see massive unemployment with the current workforce that we cannot handle, we are clearly not going to be able to support the additional population. Hence, we must act on a better education system that is dramatically different, and push the models to developing countries with high population growth. Only if we act on the change that is coming, we will be able to tackle it and embrace the positive things that come with it.