Work as we know it is being profoundly transformed at an ever increasing speed. This holds great opportunity and risk: the good news is that robots will soon do menial work for us, but the bad is that the loss of these jobs could increase in social tensions, especially in underdeveloped countries. What will happen to work after the 4th industrial revolution? This is a key topic that will be explored at OuiShare Fest 2016.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, as described in a recent book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Prof. Klaus Schwab (Chairman of the World Economic Forum), “is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”. Artificial intelligence, Nanotechnologies, Biotechnologies, 3d Printing, Robots, and the Internet are the main drivers of this new moment that is disrupting almost all job positions.
“Work that humans do used to be a role, now it is a task, but it is going to be a relationship: work is interaction between interdependent people. The really big idea of 2016 is to reconfigure agency in a way that brings relationships into the center. The mission is to see action within relationships.” - Esko Kilpi, OuiShare Fest Speaker
According to a study from Oxford University entitled The future of employment, about 47% of total US employment is at risk: “… there is a current trend towards labour market polarization, with growing employment high-income cognitive jobs and low-income manual occupations, accompanied by a hollowing-out of middle-income routine jobs.
Inequality: only the tip of the iceberg
As the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, “this new revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. As automation substitutes labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor.”
In this must read article from The Guardian: 4th Industrial Revolution brings promise and peril for humanity, Prof. Schwab compares “Detroit in 1990 with Silicon Valley in 2014. In 1990 the three biggest companies in Detroit had a market capitalisation of $36bn (£25bn), revenues of $250bn and 1.2 million employees. In 2014, the three biggest companies in Silicon Valley had a considerably higher market capitalisation ($1.09tn) generated roughly the same revenues ($247bn) but with about 10 times fewer employees (137,000).
Who will we work for? Robots, platforms or nobody?
It is easier to make money today with fewer workers than it was a quarter of a century ago. Setting up and running a car company was an expensive business and required a lot of workers. A company that makes its money out of a smart apps requires less capital, doesn’t have to pay for storage or transport in the way that car companies do and incurs virtually no extra costs as the number of users increases. In the jargon of economics, the marginal costs per unit of output tends towards zero and the returns to scale are high. This explains why tech entrepreneurs can get very rich very young.”