There is a general concern among the workforce that in a very short time humans may no longer be needed to fill many of today's jobs. The automation trend continues to accelerate with robots taking over increasingly more complex responsibilities. Workers have a reason to be concerned as many have been feeling the effects of workplace innovation. From toll booth workers to those working assembly lines, the automation trend has been moving upward for decades.
The potential benefits of these technologies are too large for employers to ignore, and even companies that take tremendous pride in human interaction are jumping on board. Consider the advances in voice command-enabled technologies such as Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. How long will it be before each is sophisticated enough to handle many of the responsibilities that humans handle today?
There's no doubt that automation, AI and chatbots are building capabilities at an incredible pace and achieving things that were in the realm of sci-fi just a few years ago. It's not a huge stretch to imagine many of our current roles, and the people who perform them, being replaced by technology.
But it's also worth considering the factors that might shape a future not completely dominated by robot overlords.
First of all, unease over the state of jobs is nothing new. CompTIA's IT Industry Outlook 2017 report discusses use of advanced technologies in the workplace as another step in blending the workforce. For years, temporary employees and contractors have been supplementing permanent, full-time staff members. Many companies have also explored the relocation of certain jobs to lower-cost geographies. Yet for all the shuffling and all the experiments, businesses continued to maintain a multifaceted labor pool, adding different components to their core group to create the right mix at the right time.
We've seen disruptive new technology many times before. The Industrial Revolution serves as a great example. While it's important to remember the amount of upheaval that took place during that transition, the reality is that predicting technology's impact on jobs is nearly impossible.
For example, the textile industry expanded along with automation advances as demand for those products skyrocketed. We see similar trends with computing technology, including a rise in the number of bank tellers during the time that ATMs were being installed virtually everywhere. In a vacuum, technology can replace certain functions, but our economy does not operate in a vacuum and businesses constantly change job roles and responsibilities in response to market forces.
Finally, the concern over job prospects is not the only issue that comes with automation. Technology broadly continues to follow Moore's law. Our technical capabilities are beginning to exceed the grasp of the general public. While people enjoy the convenience and benefits of a connected world and more powerful devices, there is a gap between appreciating those concepts and accepting their real-world applications. As the world becomes more digital, people may value—and pay a premium for—a human touch.
The challenge for job-seekers is no different than it has ever been: they must build an indispensable skill-set that increases the market demand for their services. Today's workers must also realize that the level and breadth of their talents must rise steadily to ensure their value remains high.
As companies transform into digital organizations, their employees must familiarize themselves with the more IT skills. No matter their role, they must be willing to adapt to changes in their environment.
Technology will continue to drive new and better business outcomes in the future, and those organizations need employees skilled at using those innovations if they wish to thrive in a competitive environment. As Ray Wang of Constellation Research suggests, the worker of the future will be a digital artisan, expertly blending both technology and humanity.
Want to learn more about the rise of artificial intelligence, automation and the future of all things IT? Download your free CompTIA IT Industry Outlook report today and read all about it.
Seth Robinson, Senior Director of Technology Analysis for CompTIA