YuMi the barista robot from ABB Robotics made coffee for all the attendees at last month's Manufacturing Expo 2016 at Bitec Bang Na - and could begin replacing human workers at coffee shops and franchises... Please credit and share this article with others using this link:http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1034329/technology-imperils-12-million-jobs. View our policies at http://goo.gl/9HgTd and http://goo.gl/ou6Ip. © Post Publishing PCL. All rights reserved.

YuMi the barista robot from ABB Robotics made coffee for all the attendees at last month’s Manufacturing Expo 2016 at Bitec Bang Na – and could begin replacing human workers at coffee shops and franchises. [Photo: Bangkok Post Today]

It’s a common theme in conversations about the introduction of technologies into the workplace. Given the scarcity of quality employment, any news that technology is edging out its human counterparts is hardly likely to be received without suspicion. After all, when technology replaces workers, it rarely benefits the work force. Instead, it seems to mostly bestow its graces on an ever increasing net worth of the wealthiest, while leaving workers unemployed and in competition for a drastically reduced number of job opportunities. Sometimes the jobs that ‘go away’ as a result of this technology, however, are jobs that were too risky, or even downright dangerous, to be performed by people in a society that values human life. Other jobs that are occupied by technology are those that would never have been possible to exist had their human counterparts been required to perform the tasks.

As with most things, while it is possible to take extreme position in regards to technology in the workplace, it probably isn’t wise. Yes, sometimes robots eliminate well-paid positions that were occupied by humans who then have negative employment prospects and long-term negative societal repercussions, as is well documented to have occurred with the technological revolution in the auto industry. On the other hand, sometimes they relieve people from laboring in conditions that are detrimental to their health or remove parts of their jobs that were monotonous in order to free them up to take on more important, and more interesting, tasks.

There is another way in which technology can make a job unavailable for a human worker, other than simply physically replacing them, as the Bangkok Post recently examined. Changes in technology can also make a worker obsolete if they are not appropriately trained to deal with its integration into the required duties of their position. For example, the internet has not made teachers obsolete, but a teacher who is unable to send an email or enter progress reports online would have a difficult time fulfilling the tasks which are now considered to be a routine part of their day.

DPUIC_LogoInternational educational adviser Sir Ken Robinson has long been saying that we need to train a generation of children to think creatively in order to be prepared for a job market that we cannot yet envision and a study recently undertaken in Thailand further underscores the truth of his observation. According to research conducted by the Quality Learning Foundation, Dhurakij Pundit University, and the World Bank, shifts in technology may leave as much as a third of the workforce unable to find gainful employment. Rather than a simple one-to-one replacement, human worker for robot worker, the employment effects of replacing people with machines will be compounded by people who are simply unprepared to utilize technology required for the completion of the duties of their positions.

Unfortunately, many educational systems are adopting a more skills-based, ‘real world application’ approach to education that teaches children how to operate in an employment environment that will no longer exist by the time they graduate. Dr. Kiatanan Luankeaw, Dhurakij Pundit University’s Dean of Economics, spoke to this at a forum held by the Quality Learning Foundation:

“Ten years from now, 65% of today’s school children will end up doing jobs that have not even been invented yet. The future workforce will need to align its skills to keep pace with the transition. Our education system has created a workforce that does not match the jobs available in the long run. Students are not armed with the right skills to meet labour market demands.”

Millennial_topImageThe key skill is the ability to learn and think creatively. Without this, the future workforce will not know how to adapt to the changing marketplace in which it exists. While Thailand seems to be waking up to the realization, the United States has been actively moving away from creative thinking in favor of skills-based education. It remains to be seen as the world undergoes a new industrial revolution, if workers in the US will be able to adapt to utilize new technologies, or if they will simply be replaced by them. What do you think about the job situation?  Discuss further over in the Technology & Jobs forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Image: Bangkok Post]
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