There is no doubt that the last decade has been the fastest changing decade in history, from a technological standpoint. Things are changing so quickly, impacting virtually every aspect of everyone’s lives in some way or another. The somewhat scary aspect of all this is that the next decade will likely be exponentially more volatile than the last.
From 2004 to 2014 smartphones became the norm, making almost every bit of information gathered on this earth available to anyone with a device, within mere seconds. Smartphones were not the only game changing technology to evolve in this time span though. Cloud computing, 3D printing, drone technologies, and cheaper/faster processors have contributed to a variety of changes that make life today quite a bit different than life just 10 years ago.
The next 10 years, however, will blow your mind. From now until 2024, we will see an emergence of mainstream robotics, 3D printing, and automation. Much more intelligent computers will drive forward the idea of smart robots, instead of smartphones. With this progress will also come worry. Future 3D printing technologies, combined with robotics, and intelligent machines will usher in an era which I call the, “Supervisor and Software Economy.”
A large portion of the jobs on this planet today involve labor intensive manufacturing, service and agricultural work. From manufacturing via assembly lines, to tilling a farm, to servicing vehicles, to navigating cabs, planes, buses, and ships, all these jobs will be the first to go once an automated manufacturing system is perfected within each industry. Already we are seeing such systems make their way into factories. However, they still rely quite a bit on human intervention. Within the next 5-10 years, many facilities will go from a human/dumb robotic setup, to a solely smart robotic setup. This will eliminate many of the traditional manufacturing and service jobs out there today.
I envision a time, not too far from the present, when manufacturers, as well as various service oriented businesses, will have installed systems which are almost completely automated, consisting of intelligent robots controlling almost every aspect of a production or service job. For instance, a manufacturing facility may have a line of high speed, accurate 3d printers of all types, controlled solely by smart robots.
It’s not all bad news though. In fact it may end up being a boon for the world economy. Jobs will be lost, perhaps in the tens of millions. However, jobs will also be gained. Instead of the traditional labor intensive positions, you will see the jobs market lean more towards a supervisor and software development market. Someone will need to set up the robotic systems, monitor their activity and their production charts, change algorithms, as well as write company specific software to optimize production.
Did you know that Google employs over 47,000 individuals worldwide, with the majority making well in excess of the median salary here in the United States. Google is primarily a software based business. Every search that is done, and every Android phone that is sold, relies on complicated algorithms within software, which does anything from controlling a phone, to allowing anyone anywhere to access any information on Earth. Companies like Toyota, and Caterpillar may lay off workers, replacing them with 3d printers and robots. However, there will be thousands of new start ups, specializing in smart electronics controlled by powerful, complicated software algorithms. In addition, these companies who laid off employees, will need to cater towards a more information based production system, leading to the hiring of highly skilled software engineers.
A changing job market is not the only economic impact which will change our lives. 3D printing and robotics will help to drive prices down for almost every product and service imaginable. This will allow even some of the poorest people today to live like they are part of the middle class. The variable costs of hiring an employee, will now be replaced with a fixed cost of purchasing a machine. Whether it’s laying off a cab driver or an assembly line worker, costs to companies will drop, leading to a drop in prices in general.
Over the next several years, you will hear doom and gloom from many of the obvious economists. Don’t throw in the towel; instead educate yourself in these new technologies, and prepare for a future that will involve not fewer, but different means of employment. Technological advances in 3D printing and robotics will lead to a socio-economic era, that will toe the line of abundance. It’s up to you as an individual to better yourself and prepare for a changing jobs market. Give your opinion of where this technologically advanced economy is headed at 3dprintboard.