So what is ‘the future of work’? And how can we prepare for it?
Some challenging claims have been made about what we can expect from Artificial Intelligence – or AI. It’s certainly come a very long way from those early chess computers, like IBM’s Deep Blue. They simply used high-speed number-crunching to examine every possible move.
Today’s neural networks have an ability to learn from experience. They are no longer entirely reliant on human programmers because – effectively – they program themselves. And that has led to some ground-breaking developments, and some startling glimpses into the new world on our doorstep. Such as the moment when the AlphaGo computer trounced Korean professional Lee Sedol in 2016. And did it with at least one move so unexpected and (apparently) illogical that it looked like a mistake.
So – will computers take over the world?
Well, even experts in the field can’t agree on the answer to that question. The opinions of 45 leading experts appear in two recently published books, Possible Minds and Architects of Intelligence. They pretty much all agree that something momentous is on the horizon. But there’s not much consensus as to how “momentous” momentous actually is. And they disagree profoundly on whether it should give us pause for thought.
So this week I’m off to a conference called MIT 2019 Work of the Future in London to see if I can make sense of it for myself.
I’ll let you know what I learn. But whichever way you look at it, we seem to be entering an era where science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact. Whether we’re talking about apocalyptic science fiction, in the context of climate change. Or the realms of manga and cyberpunk – which often picture a world in thrall to robots and artificial intelligence.
Reassuringly, perhaps, science fiction has been doing this for centuries. And over the centuries our own imaginative visions of the future have sometimes helped to shape it. Often in ways that work to our benefit.
Perhaps, like the characters in Ghost in the Shell, we will use the new technology to enhance ourselves – if you like, to become cyborgs. Perhaps we will simply find new ways to use it – or entirely new things to do with it. And as Virtual Reality programs become increasingly powerful, a pessimist might see a world where people never leave their rooms. Which, incidentally, the novelist E M Forster described in a short story called The Machine Stops. Written in 1909!
Of course change is challenging, but there’s nothing new about that, either. The hand weavers of the 18th century faced the same threat from new technology that many manual workers face today. What’s different is the pace of change. And AI seems to be encroaching on areas we’d always seen as a completely human preserve. But as Charles Darwin put it in The Origin of Species: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. ’
Preparing for the future
So – are you ready to adapt?
If you’d care to check out what your CV might look like in 2030, then the Michael Page recruitment agency has a page offering a somewhat tongue-in-cheek glimpse of the future. But you may notice one thing that hasn’t changed. In among all the cybernetic enhancements and future tech qualifications one skill keeps popping up is data analytics. And today, and most likely in the future, the tool most of us will be using for this is Microsoft Excel.
So, if you’d like to prepare for the future of work, right now, why not give us a call on 0345 1188150 or send us an email? We’ll help ensure your Excel skills are up to the mark. And ready to adapt to whatever the future may bring.