The rise of digital and automated technology is affecting the workforce. Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu

With the rise of robots and digital platforms, the world’s workforce faces the risk of being replaced by automation. In the US, a study states that in 2013, 74 per cent of workers had jobs that were at high risk for potential automation. On the other hand, automation has allowed manufacturing to grow and manufacturers to create cheaper products. Digitisation of services also provides numerous conveniences. So, is automation ultimately beneficial or harmful? Will it really replace the workforce or will it breed new industries? What is the best way to deal with pros and cons? Readers debate.

 

Adapt

Humans should make the best of automation

According to the most recent World Economic Report, automation and robots will replace around seven million jobs in the next five years. On one side we do have people actually losing their livelihoods but after further reading, we do understand that simultaneously new jobs are created, which are thankfully less tedious and more creative. What job automation will create in the future are jobs that involve less physical work, more involvement, and passion. This is quite different from the ones we have today just like how different jobs were 40 years ago. Common sense dictates that when products and services are mass produced (thanks to automation) at lower costs, it benefits the customers in more ways than one, including better market penetration and increased sales.

Even when machines do take over some human jobs, this does not necessarily spell the end of the jobs in that line of work. On the contrary, their number at times increases in occupations that have been partly automated, because overall demand for their remaining activities will continue to grow. We witness automation in all fields of work be it accounts, paralegal documentation or information technology.

In the end we as humans should embrace automation and make the best out of it. History has taught us that workers will always learn new technologies and skills and hence create and develop new markets. Remember no machine has ever been invented that can completely replace human passion, creativity and ingenuity.

From Ms Jerin Jacob

Business development manager based in Ajman

 

Evolution

Technology evolves, so do people

If there’s one thing that computers have taught us, it is that while they make life a lot easier and faster, they’re no match for a human brain. Much of our daily lives has been taken over by automation – from customer service telephone lines to the news we receive on social media – and it has allowed us to free up our time to discover more, and hopefully, to create more.

It is important, however, to recognise and understand people’s suspicions of machines taking over – assembly-line operations were scowled upon when they were first introduced for the very same reason we’re debating this topic today – they effectively replaced humans with machines. Continued automation in industries will do away with plenty of jobs, but I firmly believe these will not come at the cost of the workforce. In fact, the benefits will be enormous.

I foresee automation as a boon rather than a curse. With machines taking over tedious, repetitive tasks, plenty more avenues will open up for people with regard to their careers. For one, overseeing these machines immediately elevates one’s position to that of supervisor, thereby making an entry-level job even more lucrative and productive.

With mundane tasks out of the way, a great number of people will try their hand at creative solutions, making development in engineering and technology more competitive and even better.

As human beings, we are hardwired to resist change. Yet, most change is relatively gradual and we don’t even realise it has taken over our very existence until it’s too late. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just as technology continues to evolve, so will people. The more we automate, the more we’ll create and so the cycle continues.

From Ms Monita Mohan

PR content coordinator and writer based in Dubai

 

Possibilities

Automation creates new industries for talent

While automation may replace opportunities for people to do manual work, it has created whole new industries for other areas of talent. I think the digital realm in itself is very exciting, speaking as a person who comes from a digital marketing background. People are going to be rid of mundane, repetitive tasks and instead focus on innovation and the creation of new things.

I feel the people that stand to benefit are those who work in a digital-related field as now you can be practically anywhere to do your job. This means more job opportunities for working mums and other tech-savvy people. This means that those with travel aspirations can just about work from anywhere, which has never been possible before. The mundane task of data entry jobs can now go out the window; it is now going to be automated. People can now spend more time using their strategic thinking and analytical skills without dealing with oodles of numbers. To me, this provides the person a different perspective altogether and an ability to problem solve much better. Automation in general is necessary to a certain extent in a lot of aspects of life as the world population grows and the fact that we in general find less time to do the things we really want to do. The objective of automation is quite simply to make repetitive and often time-consuming tasks better so that we can focus on what’s next.

The phrase ‘innovate or die’ can now apply to people; not just companies. A person who doesn’t keep up with these movements can very easily be left behind. As the world becomes increasingly automated, it has now become of prime importance for people to keep up with the technology trends and become accustomed to constantly learning; no matter their age. The possibilities are endless.

From Ms Aneesha Rai

Content editor for real estate company based in Dubai

 

Mechanisation

Automation can deprive people of their livelihoods

Automation needs to serve the purpose of making our lives better. While small level innovation can make our daily lives better, innovation on a massive scale can lead to the mechanisation of entire sectors. We know that machines work more efficiently than humans that is a single machine can replace dozens of humans. Although automation has made its way into many businesses and sectors and has particularly influenced the manufacturing sector, the rate at which automation is taking place is alarming. A sudden spurt in technology can replace a huge number of routine jobs. The only jobs, which seem to be safe are ones that involve creativity and decision making, jobs which machines can’t do, jobs where the human element is unavoidable. Suddenly the arts, music and law seem like viable careers. But these kind of jobs require a certain level of skill, to an extent - natural talent, and most importantly an education.

A lot of routine jobs that can be mechanised do not require a certain skill set, or a particular education. The percentage of routine jobs held by unskilled workers is significant. Automation can deprive these people of their livelihoods. Even though the argument is frequently made that automation will create as many jobs as it destroys, considering the rate at which automation is happening that argument no longer holds true. When the scope for mechanising a function exists, the change is rapidly adapted and in a few years we could see industries bleeding workers due to automation. Workers who will find it hard to enter the workforce again without particular skills, experience or an education that they will find impossible to gain when their main source of income has been stripped away by machines. The playing field seems permanently rigged against their favour.

Automation has its pros and cons, and the convenience it provides is hard to ignore however the human cost must be taken into consideration. Ultimately if a better standard of living is what we all desire, we need to level the playing field before allowing machines to take over.

From Ms Pratibha Bosco

Senior officer based in Dubai