The future of work

Throughout history, humanity has worried over machines making workers obsolete.

Those fears today are growing, particularly as new technological developments, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, seem to go to the very heart of who we are as human beings. Whether the impact of this newest wave of automation will ultimately have a positive impact, augmenting rather replacing many jobs, or a net destructive impact, there is little doubt that the way we all work in the future will dramatically change.

Historical evidence would suggest that many of our concerns over automation may be overblown.  Technological advances, with their attendant, positive impact on productivity, have consistently raised economic output and created more jobs than they destroy over time.

Automation has already impacted many blue-collar manufacturing jobs. The next wave will likely target higher-paying white-collar jobs in sectors like finance, healthcare, accounting, and the law. Automation may replace many workers, but it will also augment many more, allowing them to focus on higher value-added tasks. However, the destruction is more visible, and comes earlier, than the creation of new jobs. And where these new jobs will originate is hard to predict.

Ultimately, though, do historical precedents apply as we consider this next wave of automation? Will the pace of adoption of these new technologies, as well as an acceleration in the innovation of even newer technologies, outpace the ability of the economy to recover and create new jobs?

It is too soon to know the answers to these questions, but there is no doubt that automation will dramatically change the way we all work in the future.