What’s all this about?

I’m a 15-year-old student studying at one of the best grammar schools in the country. But while studying, your mind drifts. That’s certainly what happens to me. I often ponder upon the future. Now, I don’t mean the future of my life and my career. Not do I mean the near future, including exams that are coming up in a week or two. I am talking about the future of world.

We all think about technology as something that is advancing and developing in its ability day-by-day and may potentially outsmart humans in the work that they are capable of doing. This seems to be a real concern that I hear about, mostly every day of my life. “Robots are going to rule”. “They will certainly overtake humans”. And sometimes, I get this: “What are you going to do with your future? Over 50% of current jobs won’t be available. Get serious if you actually want to get a job! Even shelf-stacking at Tesco won’t be available”

The reason why I have created this post is not to inform people by bombarding them with countless facts to prove my case, although this is the only thing now-a-days that people actually believe. If that is what you wanted (rock solid evidence) then I suggest you close this tab now. If you want a more subjective view on the matter with a few facts to support realistic views of the future then you are at the right place. I’ll try and prove 2 things to you: facts are not everything and subjective views can actually be more powerful than rock-solid facts. If you’re willing to understand this, then this blog is perfect for you.

Now, I often hear that 90% of children in primary school will be in job that currently doesn’t exist. Or, over 50% of current jobs will be obsolete. Now, I know I said that I won’t bombard you with facts, but here’s one fact that I can tell you for certain: This is bullsh*t.

Don’t believe me, right? I’m not surprised. Why would you? We as human are “programmed” to question every single thing that we are told that is subjective. The only things we are known to accept are objective outlooks of a situation. But just think for a second. General Practitioners. They job is simple: listen, understand, check, identify, prescribe, monitor. 6 steps that sum up an entire profession THAT WILL NEVER EVER BE AUTOMATED.

Why? Because no automated entity, no matter how intelligent or advanced it is, can EVER fully understand. It’s one thing that no programmer on the planet can teach a machine to do. Nothing can understand as well as humans. A machine can listen and attempt to comprehend the information it receives from a patient, but do you really think it can do it as well as a trained doctor? A machine can check and identify, but would you really trust a programmed machine to diagnose a patient. Really? If falsely identified, then the prescription would inevitably be inaccurate. If that be so, then the patient would either remain in a bad state, or worse, things could become extremely severe. Then who’s going to take the fault? The machine? The programmer?

See? Some industries can’t be taken over.

“Yeah I see that. But that’s only doctors and medical staff. That’s not the only thing in the world? There are so many other careers. You didn’t talk about them.”

Ok. Let’s look at something completely different. Let’s look at corporations. And more specifically, let’s take Apple as an example (it being one of the most famous companies and brands on the planet). Apple has an incredible large number or workers, all working to better the company in their own way, in their own department. Now, I’m going on a bit of tangent but bear with me. I want to briefly explain to you the Belbin team role theory which I will link back to the topic at hand.

(I’m not going to bore you with a detailed explanation but if you want to get a better understanding, click here to read a pdf outlining the team roles which is incredibly interesting, or if you don’t want to read such a lengthy document, click here to open a site which states the main ideas concisely so that you can understand what I am talking about in the remaining paragraphs)

The main idea that is presented is that a successful team is made up of 9 different roles:

Action-oriented Roles: Shaper, Implementor, Completer Finisher

People-oriented Roles: Co-ordinator, Teamworker, Resource Investigator

Thinking-oriented Roles: Plant, Monitor Evaluator, Specialist

These 9 are split into 3 categories, depending on a person’s character. So, for instance, if someone is more people-oriented (works best at socialising and talking to people) would be best suited to a role such as resource investigator (someone who uses their inquisitive nature to find ideas and bring them back to the team) or co-ordinator (someone who is needed to ensure the team’s objectives are reminded to them and draws out members and delegates work appropriately) as opposed to specialist (someone who brings in-depth knowledge of a key area to the team) which a more thinking-oriented person might be the best at. What I am trying to get at is that for a successful team, Belbin believed that people of these categories should be included based on the objectives to ensure that they are able to produce a successful output.

This concept may seem quite “out there” in terms of what the actual topic was but what I’m trying to get across is that fact that if a successful team need most of these roles (of course it would vary depending on the actual objectives of the team and the required output), then how can the future be automated if certain roles simply cannot be completed by machines. For example, the plant is the creative person who comes up with ideas and is someone who loves to contribute new and fresh concepts to a brainstorming session. But how can a machine come up with new ideas when it is a device that is merely running on a program? You may be thinking: well that’s unfair; that was from the thinking-oriented roles and machines can’t think. And you are right. But that’s already ruling out a third of the team.

Let’s look at teamworker. The definition is as follows: helps the team to gel, using their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team. You may agree that this could be done by a machine. But there are other factors that need to be considered. For instance, is it actually productive to do so. The teamworker helps to complete tasks on behalf of the team, right? But the programming of a machine to complete a specific task is simply not productive. Why waste time programming a one-time task. See? Sometimes it can be done, but is it worth doing is the question that you should be asking when considering what to do.

For those who are still not convinced, let us take a final role, the co-ordinator. This means that the person/machine needs to focus on the team’s objectives (which a machine could possibly do), draw out team members and delegate work. This poses an issue. One the one hand one may argue that a machine could do all those things. However, on the other hand, would you program a machine to co-ordinate a team who are working for a project lasting a week with let’s say 10 people in the team and already a project manager/project leader. Is it worth it? I’ll leave you to decide.

Hopefully you can see what I mean. Yes, robots can eventually take over some jobs, but the majority of jobs are secure for us.

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