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The 4th Industrial Revolution and your career

by | 21 Jan, 2016 | Career Planning, Future of Work, Job Search, Life planning | 0 comments

computer on desk with flowers nearbyThe 4th Industrial Revolution and Your Career

Do you know what the 4th Industrial Revolution is? More importantly, do you have an understanding of how this might affect you personally, and in particular your job or career? Regular readers of my blog will know I have written about similar topics in the past. So why am I writing about it again? A couple of reasons:

  • I saw an article in my local newspaper today which announced the release of a new report compiled by the World Economic Forum. This report warned of changes in the workplace as a  result of the 4th Industrial Revolution. More on this a little later in the post. Here is a link to the full report –  The Future of Jobs – 4th Industrial Revolution and also the link to the much shorter Executive Summary.
  • My second reason is because changes are occurring so rapidly in the workplace, and to the very nature of jobs and career paths that it is difficult for people to stay aware of what is happening. I want to keep up with developments so that you, my readers are well informed, and can take appropriate action to deal with these changes as they arise.

The world’s media is starting to wake up about the impact of technology on jobs and careers. In fact, I have seen a flurry of articles all on this same theme – that there is massive, and unprecedented pace of change taking place globally. These changes are, and will continue to dramatically alter the way in which we live, work and interrelate with one another. So, let me summarise a little of what is happening.

What is the 4th Industrial Revolution

If this is the 4th Industrial Revolution, what were the 3 previous ones. They were:

  • The 1st Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanise production
  • The 2nd Industrial Revolution used electricity to create mass production capability
  • The 3rd Industrial Revolution refers to the use of electronics and information technology to automate production

There are various descriptions about what the 4th Industrial Revolution is. Some people call it the digital revolution, which actually began in the middle of the 20th century. It is in fact a fusion of technologies which is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Wikipedia describes it as “a collective term embracing a number of contemporary automation, data exchange, and manufacturing technologies.”

What is so special about the 4th Industrial Revolution?

When compared with the previous 3 Industrial Revolutions this one is evolving at an exponential rather than linear rate. Further to this, virtually every industry around the globe is being disrupted in some way. These disruptions are being caused by things like:

  • Robotics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Smart systems
  • 3-D printing
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Nanotechnology
  • Biotechnology
  • Materials science
  • Energy storage
  • Quantum computing

Artificial intelligence, once a fantasy, is already at work with us. For example:

  • Self driving cars – Plans are being made in my city, and laws are being made to accommodate self driving cars.
  • Hire a virtual assistant. Read the book “The Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris – this is where I first heard the term ‘virtual assistant’. Your virtual assistant can live anywhere in the world, and as long as they have a computer and a good internet connection all the dreary stuff you don’t want to do can be taken care of.
  • Access software that can translate your words into text, into another language, or help you with investment decisions.

The list goes on and is quite lengthy. Something major is happening right around us – so what does this mean for you? This video, produced by IBM in 2010 is already somewhat out of date. But, it gives some great examples of what is coming.  

Who and what might be affected?

Following are some brief excerpts of information from the World Economic Forum’s report:

“Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another”

“Greater demand for jobs such as data analysts and specialised sales representatives who will be able to interpret and communicate the changes taking place”

“Reduced demand for basic jobs that can be be replaced by automation”

“Smart systems — homes, factories, farms, grids or entire cities — will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change”

“New specialties….. include new types of human resources and organisational development specialists, engineering specialties such as materials, biochemicals, nanotech and robotics, regulatory and government relations specialists, geospatial information systems experts and commercial and industrial designers.”

“Sales, transport, logistics, maths, science and architecture are set to boom. Jobs in construction, management, business, legal and financial services will remain stable”

Changes in jobs demand and incomes

I was also reading recently in an article by Klaus Schwab in Foreign Affairs. Klaus Schwab is the founder of the World Economic Forum, In his article – here’s the link to it, Schwab made some predictions about the demand for labour, and what is likely to happen to incomes as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Schwab believes that the labour market will become increasingly divided into “low skill – low pay” and “high skill – high pay” segments. He explains, that as a result there is “a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends with a hollowing out (of demand) in the middle.” He also explains that “technology is.. one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries”. This situation, he says, helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate.

Take out some insurance

The future that is being described in the report produced by the World Economic Forum can be either exciting or scary for you – perhaps even a bit of both those emotions. It really depends on how you are presently situated, and what you are presently doing to make yourself employable in the digital economy, and ideally self sufficient as far as income and job security are concerned.

Conduct a risk assessment

Given that exponential nature and accelerating rate of change in this 4th Industrial Revolution I believe it would be extremely prudent for anyone to do a risk assessment on their personal circumstances as far as their job security is concerned. Questions to ask yourself might include:

  • Are you working in a job where there is a high risk of it being automated or replaced by technology?
  • Have you known other people doing the same work as you who have lost their jobs due to the impact of technology?
  • Are you witnessing businesses and organisations introducing new, alternative ways of doing doing what you and your employer currently do?
  • Have new technologies or systems been introduced recently into your workplace?
  • If you lost your job tomorrow because your position has been made redundant, are there lots of job vacancies being advertised that you could potentially, and successfully apply for?
  • Do you have an ongoing program of professional and personal development which is enabling you to be conversant, and competent in using new technologies?

The answers to these questions are really self evident and should flag some warning signals that your job security and income is at risk.

Educate yourself

New, different types of skills are going to be needed in the digital economy.

Please understand that self paced learning, and how you have gone about applying your new skills is just as valuable to a potential employer as are qualifications you obtain through study at college, a technical college or university.

Something you therefore might like to investigate is this type of business and education opportunity.

Regular readers will know that I strongly advocate entrepreneurship.

I believe that looking for opportunities to gain extra income through your own efforts is one way you can begin to insure yourself against the coming changes.

Certainly there are risks associated with this, and there are no guarantees of success. However, doing nothing and hoping that you won’t be affected by the digital revolution is absolutely fraught with risk.

Summary

I trust the brief information I have presented here will prompt you to look around you, observe what is happening in the world of employment, and start to assess your preparedness to transition into a new way of living, working, educating yourself and communicating with others.

As is always the case with change, you can either try to get in front of the wave and ride with it, or sit still and be swamped.

Till next time Best wishes from Anthony