TODAY, NOBODY SPENDS an entire career doing the same job the same way anymore. In fact, a recent study found that as many as almost half of the jobs in developed countries are at risk of being automated.
This trend seems to be due solely to artificial intelligence and machine learning. But the truth is that the real shift has less to do with any particular branch of information technology and much more with how three digital forces are beginning to invade everything else. As it turns out, our digital future is very human.
1. Acceleration: When growth is exponential, even seemingly insignificant trends can become predominant. This is the concept of a phenomenon commonly known as Moore’s Law, the observation on the continuous doubling of transistors on a microchip. Today, as digital technology pervades everything else, we can see similar trends in everything from solar panels to gene sequencing.
2. Democratization: The decades after World War II saw a number of technological revolutions. Companies mass produced products that were mass marketed toward mass audiences. Corporate strategy focused on wringing ever more efficiency out of the value chain, because lowering your cost means that you could reinvest in assets that would create even more efficiency and unlock a virtuous cycle.
Yet those days are over. Competitive advantage in a networked age is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections. Now even the resources of a massive organization like IBM aren’t sufficient to compete anymore. So unless it can tap into the talents of thousands of developers across the world and make its technology accessible enough to allow others to build products on top of it, the company would fall behind its rivals.
3. Convergence: The final force shaping technology today is convergence. A computer is no longer something in a room somewhere doing calculations but an invisible force used to power other machines. This is what is enabling the new technologies that are driving the 21st century, such as genomics, nanotechnology and robotics. These, in turn, are driving transformational change in scientific labs, factory floors and marketplaces.
To truly change the world today we need computer scientists working with cancer scientists, with climate scientists and with experts in many other fields to tackle grand challenges and make large impacts on the world.
But the impact is even larger on other industries. As the bits of computer code pervade the atoms of our workplaces, we’re increasingly living in an automated age and the nature of work is becoming less about performing tasks and more about using technology to collaborate with other people.
To win in this new marketplace, you no longer need the best people – you need the best teams. Value is shifting from those who can perform tasks efficiently to those who can work well with others to design jobs for machines. Thus, we now need to hire, manage and train for new skills, such as empathy and social sensitivity. As automation produces ever greater abundance, humankind itself is becoming the scarce, and therefore most valuable, resource. By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail Feb. 13-19, 2023 issue)