How will the labor market be influenced by technology that is progressing at dizzying speed?

| 01.05.19

Despite the gloomy forecasts, it must be honestly admitted that our ability to contain, comprehend, and predict the future is gradually diminishing.

The main reason for this is the intensity and speed of modern technological changes. Processes that in the past occurred over centuries, and later over generations, occur today within merely a few years. In practice, this is one of the reasons that we find it so difficult to keep up: What was true yesterday, is only barely true today, and will certainly not hold true tomorrow.
It is for this reason that we cannot rule out the possibility that the artificial intelligence and learning machines revolution will create new jobs, fields of employment and expertise that we cannot even imagine today. Jobs such as “Data Scientist”, “Search Engine Optimization expert”, “Video Blogger at YouTuber” or “Online Social Network Community Manager” have been created during recent years, and are a direct result of the rapidly developing internet economy that has created a new echelon of workers and jobs that rely on companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and others.

Today’s reality whereby someone’s day at work focuses on the attempt to convince Google’s grading algorithm that the site he is promoting should be at the top of the search results list, would have seemed beyond belief twenty years ago. It is hard to remember that back then, we searched for a doctor by paging through the telephone directory… Consequently, the presumption to know how the labor market will be influenced by technologies advancing at dizzying speed, is one to be approached with a good deal of modesty.
Still, those who believe that developments in the fields of software, robotics and algorithms will not affect them, are choosing to bury their heads in the sand. In coming years, both organizations and employees will be required to locate and invest in skills and abilities that rely on clear human attributes such as creativity, sympathy, compassion, face-to-face communication – ‘soft skills’ – those that are difficult to program and hard for machines to imitate.

Workers must remember that in this age, education does not stop after high school or even university. They must continue to study and develop themselves, and vary their abilities and fields of knowledge. They must develop their creative muscle, their imagination, initiative and even their sense of self-criticism. Digital literacy is an essential skill for every school pupil and certainly for students and adult workers.

Moreover, while computers (still) depend on logic, rationalism, and calculations of probability, humans also rely on, and are motivated by, emotions and intuition. They occasionally act against their own interests; they have the ability to be surprised by their own decisions. If, in the past, these attributes were regarded as “weak”, in the super-rationalist era they actually become important. We wouldn’t like to see judges made of code and steel passing judgment on us. We would not like robots to do the work of kindergarten or schoolteachers, social workers or of any other professionals associated with the human experience. Human beings, not robots, are aware of the meaning of death, suffering or heartache, and therefore performing their job with sensitivity, compassion and tenderness.

Personally, I hope that despite the fact the machines are expected to take control over increasingly number of tasks and jobs, we will know how to preserve the things that makes us all so special, so important, and so human.

  • Dr. Yuval Dror is the Dean of the School of Media Studies at the College of Management Academic Studies, and a researcher in the field of Sociology of technology.  

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