Nerd For Tech
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Nerd For Tech

Why technology likely won’t take your job. Mostly.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

It’s a narrative we often hear, from business media and in many books and podcasts. Digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence and robotics are going to wipe out many jobs. Millions upon millions will be left jobless. This refrain is often used to push the argument for a Universal Basic Income (UBI.) While we can’t know for sure what will actually happen, some jobs will definitely be lost. Many new ones will be created and some will evolve into a hybrid human-machine role. But in my research on this topic, there is one aspect that doesn’t get much, if any consideration, that will have a significant impact on this argument. Population decline.

You may be like many in this world, who believe or think, that Earth’s population will double in the coming decades. This is a myth. Populations in some countries are growing, but in many, especially those with a strong middle class, they are declining. As developing nations become more stable and their economies stronger, they too will decline in population. The UN posits that by the end of this century, we will have 11 billion humans puttering around the planet. Many others disagree, putting peak humans at about 9.7 billion by 2070 and then going into significant decline. While we can’t be sure, the evidence is weighing into less humans than more. In fact, we may be in a more rapid decline than we know right now.

Very wealthy nations like Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada and America are all seeing lower population growth. Already they are not replacing births with deaths. All are facing rapidly aging populations too. Even China has this problem. It is becoming so bad in Japan that the country is increasingly relying on technologies such as robots for elder care. Many jobs go unfilled because there’s not enough people to fill them. This is already being anticipated in Western nations.

And if you’re wondering about Artificial Intelligence? It will displace some jobs, yes. But for the most part, AI will enhance most jobs for the foreseeable future. This could actually make work more enjoyable as AI can do the mundane, routine stuff most of don’t like doing. We will have Narrow AI for a long time and may never achieve General AI (i.e. Terminator level.) Robots too will replace some jobs, but not all.

Even as long ago as the late 19th century as manufacturing plants came online with the rise of electricity generation and cars gained speed (yes, pun), the predicted mass job losses never arose.

But the biggest thing is population decline. Add to that the mass retiring of boomers that has already begun. Many coding jobs will be lost to low/no code, but new products will be developed. The field of Information Management will take on a whole new scale as well and that will mean jobs.

We will likely experience a time of churn, where significant job losses do happen over a period of 15–20 years. The need for re-skilling and up-skilling will be significant as well. Governments will have to step in. Free-Market Libertarians will find this a very awkward time indeed. It is inevitable that there will be a need for more public services managed by governments.

So yes, some jobs will be lost. I’m far from an economist, but my work in understanding workplace cultural shifts and how technology is impacting organisations as well as these emerging technologies would indicate less jobs will be lost than is sometimes promulgated.

All that said, it’s not bad to do some skills upgrading. But not just technology and code. The arts and creatives will play an ever more important role in a digital society. You may also need to move to another country, but hye, that can be exciting. But that’s another topic.

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