This article was originally published by The Croydon Citizen on 03/02/2016
Work in Croydon? There is a 60% likelihood that your job won’t exist in ten years’ time
Jonny Rose brings a message of hope for those who choose to hear it, and a warning for those who don’t
Technology is replacing jobs
A 2013 study by the Oxford Martin School estimated that 47% of jobs in the US could be susceptible to computerisation over the next two decades. In Australia, the figure has been pitched at 70% of jobs within a decade. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that, by 2025, robots could jeopardise between 40 million and 75 million jobs worldwide.
In the words of famous venture capitalist Marc Andreessen: “technology is eating the world”. And as well as making our lives a lot more connected and convenient, it will also mean fewer jobs for Croydonians.
Why this is happening?
There have been two major developments over the past 10 years. The first relates to advances in ‘machine learning’ – the ability to organise large volumes of data so you can get actionable intelligence. The second is the availability of data of all kinds, coming from smartphones and other low-cost sensors out there in the environment. When you add those two things up – the availability of the data along with the ability to interpret it – it enables a whole lot of things that you couldn’t do before.
Many areas of manual work are being affected. Robots in factories and warehouses are becoming more mobile, versatile and affordable. A US-designed robot called Baxter, which can handle a wide variety of tasks from loading to packaging, currently costs £19,000. If you’re digging a ditch or painting a house, laying pipes or setting bricks – anything that involves basic hand-eye co-ordination – there will be low-cost, efficient mechanical devices that can do that work.
It’s not just manual labour that’s ripe for automation: white-collar jobs are also at risk as software becomes more sophisticated. One example is Quill, a program developed by US company Narrative Science that crunches data and generates reports in a journalistic style.
Data analysis work in areas such as advertising and finance is being outsourced to computers and even the authority of medical experts is being challenged: IBM’s Watson computer, which won the American TV quiz Jeopardy in 2011, is now being used to diagnose cancer patients in the US.
That’s not to say that all is lost – there will still be jobs out there for humans to keep their livelihoods. Machines like Watson can sift through symptoms, medical histories and the latest research to deliver diagnoses and suggest potential treatments, but there are limits to its diagnostic abilities and, unlike a human doctor, it cannot treat patients with empathy and understanding.
However, the reality is that a very large fraction of our workforce is engaged in activities that are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable. Which means it can be automated away.
How Croydonians can keep their livelihoods?
Rather than sticking your head in the sand and thinking that won’t happen to me, the first thing to do is get smart and appraise the situation. Look to the areas that will grow in this increasingly automated world: computer maintenance, software programming, project management, etc.
The next step is to then work out how you can best access training so as to be proficient in these skills.
Fortunately, for Croydonians, Croydon Tech City is committed to training and upskilling local people so that they can participate in present-day tech economy on your doorstep and the tech economy of the future.
So what are your options?
If you are a child or teen: Croydon Tech City has a dedicated programme called Future Tech City to service, support and encourage the take-up of computer programming and coding by as many young people as possible in Croydon to prepare them for the tech economy of the future and for their personal development. Teachers, educators, and parents can find out about Future Tech City here.
If you are an adult: Croydon Tech City runs a variety of free monthly courses put on by the community for the community, including coding, project management and startup business lessons. You can sign up to Croydon Tech City classes here.
Wednesday 3rd February, 2016
About Jonny Rose
Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community; serving at Grace Vineyard Church, organising Purley Breakfast Club (Cafe Blue, Purley – last Saturday of each month) and was recently ranked “Croydon’s 37th most powerful person” by The Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He currently works as ‘Product Evangelist’ for software company, Idio, and is the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com