Posted on March 24, 2017 by staff

Tech and AI could ‘swallow up 14m jobs in under 25 years’


Advances in technology could swallow up 14m jobs in less than 25 years and the public must adapt to survive, according to a digital futurist.

‘Born disruptor’ Mike Ryan believes traditional careers will soon be a thing of the past, and workers of the near-future will have to retrain numerous times throughout their life.

Speaking at Pro-Manchester’s Digital Disruption conference on Wednesday (March 22), he highlighted the case of Foxconn, which replaced 60,000 staff with 200,000 machines in December 2016.

The Chinese iPhone manufacturer had faced serious criticism for the treatment of its workers, and according to Ryan, took the ‘easiest option’ and ditched its humans.

But founder of Fusion Futures Ryan stresses the coming years are not as bleak as they might sound.

“It’s not all bad news because we’ve been here before. And what’s really interesting about this being Manchester, is we were the centre of it about 150 years ago.

“If you look at the mid-19th century, nearly 80 per cent of the people in this area were working on farms. Within 40 or 50 years, nearly 70 per cent of them worked in the new city in new industries.

“So we’re very well-versed in the Groundhog Day that occurs every little while. The first happened in the industrial revolution.

“Then we had the second one, which is when we had the information that was being generated by all this new commerce. It created lots of office jobs.

“And now we’re into the third.”

He said: “Every single car manufacturer now is rethinking how it engineers and how it produces, and that is going on in every industry.

“The world of production is becoming automated. And obviously that is having a massive impact on our world. Even McDonald’s has started to flip burgers digitally.

“These are the ways we’re going to reimagine the new world, and start looking at technology in a new way… We are still using 20th century technology in a 21st century way.”

According to Ryan, a digital workforce won’t create a lot of jobs, but it will create a lot of money.

By 2040, he predicts 1.8m driving jobs will disappear, alongside 3m in retail, 1m in manufacturing and 3m office workers.

All added together, this equates to about 46 per cent of today’s workforce.

Ryan also highlighted clean energy and precision farming in fast-growing cities throughout the UK – something that has already been pioneered in Tokyo.

In order to survive the future, people will have to change the way they educate themselves and work.

Speaking to a room full of tech-inclined workers, he added: “If you are good at what you do, you will probably be safe. If you’re average at what you do, then you probably won’t be. There is some safety at the top.

“If you’re at the top of your game, you’ll have a very secure future. So you’ve probably got, in terms of the industries that you come from, five years to get to the top – then you’ll be alright, probably.

“It’s not all bad news. We’re going to see a whole number of different ways in which people will be working with technology in the future – like 21st century smart materials.

“It’s all about agility and the ways in which we can be more agile in the way that we approach work, the skills that we’ve got.

“Because, unfortunately, the half-life of knowledge is going down to about six months. The information we have now is valid for six months after it’s given to us.

“And in that world people are going to have to be very agile.

“The way in which we look at the world is going to be through a set of careers, rather than just one career. And this is the way in which we will start to look at the world of work.

“And spotting the opportunities of the next career is going to be a critical skill that we have to teach people.”

PwC’s latest economic analysis on the impact of automation estimates around 30 per cent of existing UK jobs are susceptible to automation from robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) by the early 2030s.

But according to its report, in many cases the nature of jobs will change rather than disappear – and the UK’s rate is lower than the US at 38 per cent and Germany at 35 per cent, but higher than Japan at 21 per cent

The likelihood of automation appears highest in sectors such as transport, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail, and lower in education, health and social work.

Male workers could be at greater potential risk of job automation than women, but education is the key differentiating factor for individual workers.