Will Robots Take Your Job?

In the 1800's people worried that the Industrial Revolution would take jobs. Instead, it created millions of jobs. Today there is a concern that robots will take our jobs but is that realistic?

Donald Farmer (VP of Innovation, Qlik) was recently in Australia where he presented to Qlik users a thought provoking presentation on this topic.

Two Hundred years ago, 70% of American workers worked in Agriculture. Today, only 1% do. A dramatic shift in the workforce for sure. Can we expect the same trend once the robots move in?

What is being considered now is “the extent to which decisions can be Automated.” Farmer said, “The more we learn about how humans understand information and structure a decision, the more we learn just how necessary humans are for decision making.”

Currently, we can get quotes for insurance, loans, even overdrafts in seconds online. Once we trust these systems it will allow us to rely on machines for other things, like assessing simple symptoms and assigning remedies, or out of court settlements for petty crimes. But that will only work if the facts are black and white. Introduce any sort of ambiguity and machines struggle.

Automated systems can be employed for repetitive jobs and this will have an impact on the workforce. Humans will lose out to machines in these situations, but Farmer is optimistic about this. Instead of doing trivial jobs that don’t offer challenges to employees, people will be able to pursue training or a career in something that truly piques their interest.

According to Farmer, there are two things currently missing from the progress of technology that is slowing down the march towards complete automation. Firstly, machine intelligence is not progressing as fast as many people think. There is nothing yet that allows a machine to handle ambiguity.

And, as obvious as this sounds, machines cannot control themselves. “If we don’t like a system we are creating, if we think we are giving it too much power, then we don’t have to continue with it,” Farmer said.

Technology is moving quickly, but not so fast that our jobs are in jeopardy. Rather, we should take advantage of what technology can do for us now in making our jobs easier and making us more effective.


(This blog is based on an article which appears in the July 2015 edition of Venture Magazine. http://theventuremagazine.com/magazine/july15/)