I attended a seminar at the recent annual International Longevity Centre conference about robots and how they might affect the world of work.
The scene-setter was a Nesta report suggesting that robots are likely to replace 10% of jobs, very unlikely to replace 20% whilst the remaining 70% up for grabs. Change is definitely afoot.
So how can us feeble humans respond to this?
First of all, revel in our humanity. As one panellist put it, if machines are getting smarter, humans need to get more human. We should nurture our abilities to create and invent beautiful things and develop our empathy so that we are better at getting on with each other. No need to invest time or money learning Maths or French.
Second, as employers we should be boringly specific about all the individual processes which make up the jobs we need done. Robots are not going to take over whole industries but will be embedded to a greater or lesser extent across the board. Successful organisations will be able to identify processes which can easily be performed by robots and those which can’t and will adapt accordingly.
Third, similarly as employees we should be thinking about which of our skills are robot-proof and which are not. The Nesta report has some more specific thoughts on this. And we should be on the look-out for ways to develop new skills. The trouble is that the timing is hard to pinpoint. Take driving as an example. It seems highly likely that drivers are going to be replaced by robots but when?
Fourth, enjoy it! I was struck by the optimism of the session. Robots should free up time for us to enjoy life more and we should put some thought into how we enjoy this bonus. Perhaps more singing? I’m pretty sure robots wouldn’t be able to replace the Blume choir.