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Posted: 21 Jul 2016

Why Automation job fears are misguided in broader employment context

By Mohit Sharma

Automation mixed in with emerging artificial intelligence is a wonderful way for online article writers to lure in readers with scary headlines about robots taking everyone’s jobs, but like most clickbait, the truth is far less dramatic.

Recent research reports, which have fanned some of the flames about a robot-led jobs apocalypse have incorrectly blurred the important difference between jobs and employment.

They are not actually the same thing, and when used loosely and interchangeably - especially in reference to quantifying the impact of automation – these words create a fear factor among readers, which will eventually lead to paranoia.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"

Rather than hitting LinkedIn with my own Pokemon Go Lure Module-style article (Gen Y gets the idea!) … I'm doing the opposite.

These robot job stealers are a myth …You have nothing to worry about!

So here’s why robots won’t leave you unemployed…

 Learning from the Past

In 1983, India witnessed riots and trade union strikes when modern-style computers were introduced. Research reports at the time predicted the same dire scenarios we are seeing today of huge job losses.

Who now would argue that computerisation killed employment in India over the past two decades?

Today, India is a major hub for outsourcing and IT services with the IT sector bringing in revenue of almost USD 150 billion per annum.

What the doomsayers of the time failed to predict (and what their equivalents today also fail to see) is that while some jobs go or change, employment evolves.

In this case it meant jobs from other geographical locations being outsourced to India, so employment was not killed off, and the latest technology wave will similarly change jobs, but not kill of the need for employment in other ways.

Societies evolve … always have, always will.

Learning from the Present

In Australia CEDA predicts that 40% of jobs will disappear in 10 to 15 years due to technological advancements.

However, this too takes the simplistic approach of assuming that because today’s job roles may be phased out in some case, that nothing new will come along to replace it. We need to take confidence in history to show that this is not just wishful thinking.

The unemployment rate in Australia in 1996 was over 8% and in 2016 it is 6%. This is in spite of the following factors, which many have proposed as job killers:

  • An increase in the Australian population by 30%
  • The loss of most local manufacturing jobs to China
  • The loss of back office jobs to India
  • The loss of voice-based process jobs to the Philippines 

 As a society we evolve and adapt, we don’t stand still and fall victim to progress, we make use of the new opportunities presented.

Vision for the Future

Research firm Gartner predicted that by 2018, six billion ‘connected things’ will be creating multitudes of support requests such that responding to these automated support requests will spawn the creation of entire service industries.

More employment opportunities will be created in order to create innovative solutions to answer such requests.

The nature of capitalism means that the smartest and bravest people in society find way to take advantage of new technology, the people that will go on to work for them, don’t currently know what form this will take.

You can’t know what you don’t know, so articles filling you with fear of the future hit their mark.

Technological advancement has always created opportunities for businesses to grow and industries to be created.

What do we need to do? 

The simple answer is to invest in innovation.

After the initial era of automation moves into the new mainstream reality, individuals must spend the time and money saved from not doing repetitive, mundane jobs on identifying problem areas and arriving at new innovative solutions.

Businesses have more than a moral duty to invest in re-skilling their talent ... they would be commercially foolish not to do so.

Automation or robotics will handle the repetitive tasks in your business, but developing the skills of employees to focus on human judgement-based tasks is key, and it is down to you as leaders.

How our RPA engagements are validating this?

Over the past 18 months, Mindfields has run 11 automation projects for corporate clients in which we have observed the dynamics of a changing workplace play out in front of our eyes. We have unique value proposition to provide consulting based on an independent research.

Three of these clients were in the US, whereas eight were in Australia, and they were in both financial service and non-financial services organisations.

The simple fact that belies the shocking robot headlines, is that we are yet to see a single robot taking away the job of any employee.

A client of ours, a leading bank in Australia automated approximately 250 processes without laying off a single employee.

 We have done an in-depth research report on Robotics and Process Automation covering leading organisations in Australia, UK and US where we have expanded on some of these ideas and explained where automation currently sits in the business sphere.

Why I am sharing this with you?

There is no doubt that increasingly intelligent software will create a world of opportunities for each of us to reap benefits.

I took the time to write this because I thought it was important to address some of the scarier ideas being put up against further work on robotic automation.

I hope you are slightly more convinced that robots will NOT take away your jobs, or cause your employees to rise up in rebellion.

Don’t be a sucker for clickbait … take a deeper look into it. I am always keen to talk if you want to contact me personally on LinkedIn.

And if you need a more pressing feeling to feel brighter … remember, its technology (augmented reality, GPS tracking etc.) which is making it possible for you to close down this article and decide to catch a Pikachu.

Actually, I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not!


Mohit Sharma

Mohit Sharma

Founder and Exec Chairman
Thought Leader | Trusted Advisor | Innovator