If you had told a farmer a century ago that he would not need labourers, and would be able to harvest and manage his farm using machines he would have laughed at you. If you had told factory bosses the same thing about sixty years ago, they would have been equally dismissive. And yet, we’ve gone from 40% of the workforce being formally employed in agriculture in 1900 to less than 2% today, with over 400% increase in output during that time.
So, we should not be surprised that people have been predicting the demise of white colour workers, middle management and service jobs for many years. It was probably Tom Peters who made the most high profile predictions around the turn of the millennium, when he suggested 25% of all office workers would lose their jobs by 2015. As with most future predictions, his timing was somewhat out, but the content is likely to be spot on. Jobs and careers are being disrupted as never before – see what my colleague, Dean had to say on this topic just last week.
And don’t think this will affect just the low level office worker. No, it’s likely to affect professionals just as much. It’s already happening. The best example I can think of is on the trading floor of investment banks. Just two years ago, the traders who handled huge daily trades (especially in currencies) were some of the highest paid people in the business world. Now they’ve been replaced by computers. Just like that.
A few months ago, we read reports of a legal firm in the USA offering a web based service where you can type in the details of your legal complaint and the system automatically finds the legal precedents that will determine whether you will win or lose your case. All without a human lawyer involved. We’re sure that other professionals will face a similar fate – if they’re generalists.
In this video, Graeme Codrington talks about how even your family doctor will be replaced by a machine by 2020. Unless he or she does things that computers can’t do. But I’ll talk about that more later this week.
This video of Graeme Codrington was recorded by our good friends at Your Business Channel as part of their ongoing work to capture the best business insights in video format. See more video at our TomorrowToday TV channel.