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"Winter is Coming" for the Legacy Workplace with AI, Autonomous Things & Immersive Technologies

Yes, not only is 'winter coming' for GOT fans... aka the end of the series, the "technology winter" is coming faster to the workplace than many of us are prepared to arrive in this new world. Technology changes are more coming quickly now.

Gartner Technology Trends for 2019 (Video)
Gartner Technology Trends for 2019 (Video)

Every year Gartner Research puts together its key list of technology trends and they have released a summary video explaining these of technology trends. Five core technology themes were highlighted:

  1. Intelligence: autonomous things (automobiles, trucks, ships and drones), augmented analytics, and unquenchable demand for AI-driven applications

  2. Digitization: digital twins (the creation and use of digital likeness of all physical things enabling efficient remote diagnostics and technical support), empowered edge devices (with more power, memory, software, and connectedness), and immersive experiences (putting you in the digital reality like VR and AR)

  3. Mesh: block chain (enabling an indisputable accountability ledger for transactions of all kinds) and smart spaces (where connectedness of things to places and people are increased).

  4. Privacy and Ethics: with technology comes the need to manage technology expectations, acceptable use, and compliance

  5. Quantum Computing: speed of computing orders of magnitude faster than present linear programmed computing was capable of performing.

The disruptive nature of these key technology trends has spurred tremendous investment and debate as truly the next industrial revolution has commenced, where the proverbial 'deck chairs' of technology "haves" and :have nots" are undoubtedly going to be shuffled again. In my view, we have entered a new technology race, a new industrial revolution, that will spur employment in some markets, and displace employment in other sectors.

While I am personally excited for these new technology trends and capacities and imagining a new future, I feel at times like I have seen this movie before, and the race is just re-setting for the next stage of marathon learning, and I wonder... am I ready and energized for the next stage of learning? In 1978 I was a sophomore in High School and enrolled in an advanced math class. Luckily, for reasons I am unaware, my sophomore class was chosen to work with the Computer Science Department at the University of Utah in a new experimental educational exchange to teach computer programming to high school students. It was the early days of computing and we learned Fortran, Basic, and programming the TRS-80 (and now I have carbon dated myself). Since those early days I have also strived to keep abreast of technology, reading books, listening to talks, and tracking technology trends and this has helped me stay a few steps ahead of my peers. Today, my college age children find it curious that I am reading the same books they are reading in their modern classes, and I tell them it is so that I can keep up, and not get passed by; and it certainly makes for great conversation with my children when I can talk to them about what they are learning today.

The coming technology sea change referenced by Gartner's forecast above will undoubtedly impact the modern workplace in ways we likely will both fear and appreciate; we will fear losing our own jobs, and we will appreciate the great, new, more responsive products and services we will have access to that make our lives better. So what positions are first likely to be reduced, and where shall one look for peace in the coming days of employment disruption?

  • Like the travel agents roles that were largely automated and eliminated in the early Internet days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when internet travel sites (like Sabre, Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Kayak etc) changed this industry, we should expect more industry-specific positions to be automated, particularly where activities are routine, driving costs of solutions lower.

  • Additionally certain routine activity task jobs (perhaps 30%) will be automated in manufacturing, services, banking, healthcare, etc. impacting 60% of the workforce. (McKinsey)

  • Beyond tasks, certain jobs now performed by humans will be performed by robots in the future, some 80 million USA jobs projected to be automated.

  • Transporation jobs will gradually be changed by autonomous vehicles of all types (automobiles, trucks, planes, ships, and drones).

  • Virtualization of jobs will increasingly occur, as it will not be important where you work geographically, but rather does your work get done. For instance, the arial drone operator in Nevada does not need to be at the location of the drone in the field to be successful for the day. And follow-the-sun IT operations teams do not need to be geographically close in proximity to work on the same project.

  • And to sum up, those jobs that “are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable” are most likely to be automated first. In time, AI will enable even the higher cognitive thinking positions to be automated.

While I do expect many jobs to be made redundant and replaced by more efficient automated solutions, I also anticipate an increase in new employment opportunities in new industries, fields, and avenues not heretofore comprehended. For example, I predict that autonomous aviation vessels (planes, jets, hovercraft etc) will create a whole new industry of transportation, requiring many more employees, and creating new markets and great opportunity for employees to live wherever they want, allowing employees to move to vacation spots and remote locations for peaceful living, increasing construction and city building across our planet, thereby increasing many more jobs. Sea and space exploration will create even more jobs. The important part to ponder is what we do now should not be framed by where we work, but rather what critical thinking skills do we bring together to work.

Regardless of anyones individual decision to engage or not engage in a particular market, the technology future is coming, the technologies are being developed today that require us to be prepared, to demonstrate curiosity, lifetime learning, and openness to change, for to do otherwise is to stand still and die a slow death of obsolesce in the workplace. I continue to be amazed in my headhunting for executives when I encounter the walking-dead, those executives who have not read a book or learned a new skill since college; those days should be over for all of us.

To find peace and employment of satisfaction in the coming years will be a valuable objective that will be illusive to those who have stopped or refused to learn new things. To achieve peace and employment satisfaction in the coming years it will be essential for individuals to increase their love of learning, listening, observing, and engaging with thoughtful curiosity in new topics. Age is just a number; Old is when you stop learning. And if you have determined to stop learning, the future will be quite cold to you... your jobs will be automated, your services will be automated, and your sense of self worth... if work is how you define yourself... will be gradually undermined by the technologies to be developed in the coming years. But if you keep your mind active, learn to enjoy learning, foster curiosity, stay nimble and agile, then this coming technology industrial revolution will be likely quite exciting and rewarding for you.


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