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Asia Pacific

Adobe Think Tank The Future of Work

The Future of Work: Machines

Foreword by Joseph Sweeney, IBRS Advisor
 
It is interesting that we still think of machines as the drivers of industry. When we say “machines,” we immediately think of cogs spinning and products rolling off production lines. But for today’s economy, the term machines must be expanded to embrace all manner of technologies that augment - or replace - human activity.    
 
Just as the steam engines of old heralded in the industrial revolution of manufacturing, digital machines - software and artificial intelligence - is creating an industrial revolution for services.  And even this view is limited in that it is based on a false distinction between manufacturing and service. 
 
 
It is interesting that we still think of machines as the drivers of industry. When we say “machines,” we immediately think of cogs spinning and products rolling off production lines. But for today’s economy, the term machines must be expanded to embrace all manner of technologies that augment - or replace - human activity.    
 
Just as the steam engines of old heralded in the industrial revolution of manufacturing, digital machines - software and artificial intelligence - is creating an industrial revolution for services.  And even this view is limited in that it is based on a false distinction between manufacturing and service.  
 
The emerging Industrial Revolution 4.0 will see physical machines and digital machines combine. Services will be automated in the real world through augmented reality and robotics. Manufacturing will become a simple software request.   
 
The role of people in this the Industrial Revolution 4.0 is that of a conductor and consumer… not necessarily the implementer.   
 
Machines - being the combination of physical and software - will take over many of today's  jobs. Much more than most people realise.  
 
To illustrate this, the university startup RoboMotion automates the programming of industrial robots. RoboMotion is software writing software for robots that make stuff. Currently, industrial-grade robotic production lines are limited to large corporations due to the high-cost of human programmers. Smaller and mid-sized manufacturers have remained relatively labour intensive, as they cannot leverage the cost-advantages of robotic manufacturing.  A software algorithm that takes a digital drawing and automatically codes the software needed to drive industrial robots, democratise robotic manufacturing. It is not only the elimination of the software developer role - it opens robotic manufacturing to smaller organisations and for smaller production runs. Manufacturing is becoming an automated service.  
 
This is just one example of the coming wave of smart machines that will fundamentally impact society. From autonomous vehicles to drones, machine-learning digital assistants and voice-controlled everything, up to 40% of today’s jobs are about to change significantly... or be eliminated outright.   
 
Our headlong rush towards Industrial Revolution 4.0 is in vital need of careful, considered direction regarding the impact on workers, society, the economy and sustainability.
The public, business leaders and governments alike must begin a discussion about the type of society and economy we want.   
 
We must create a policy for a sustainable future for work in the era of smart machines, or risk being stumbling into an uncertain future of unintended consequences.    
 
This is the future of work. 
 
 
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