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Embracing technological change: Finding opportunity in the 4th Industrial Revolution

Should we worry about the impact of machines, artificial intelligence (AI), big data & the Internet, on our lives?

Technological progress & AI are expanding the scope of soon-to-be obsolete human jobs like never before While some jobs are becoming obsolete, it also brings it with it new employment opportunities But the 4th Industrial Revolution is enabling a major opportunity: upskilling

As the famous saying goes, change is inevitable, and that proves doubly so with technology. 

Today, we find ourselves living through the 4th Industrial Revolution. This revolution, however, is not one of factory lines and smoggy skies, but of artificial intelligence (AI), big data and the Internet. Machines are more involved in our lives than ever before. 

Technological change is always met with hesitation and fear

Every Industrial Revolution brought it with major concerns and job loss angst. The first revolution and the first true instance of mechanical development supposedly threatened the livelihoods of farmers; many small businesses were not able to keep up with the economies of scale of new factories during the 2nd Industrial Revolution; and automation during the 3rd Industrial Revolution posed a threat to many manual labor jobs. Today these fears are renewed, with AI expanding the scope of soon-to-be obsolete human jobs like never before. 

AI can be your boss’ secretary, the receptionist, the customer support representative, your wealth advisor and even your personal assistant. There are still major limitations on AI’s capabilities, but these boundaries are gradually expanding as technology develops. As these boundaries expand, so do employees’ fears. 

However, there is a major point that is often overlooked with the rise of machines during any era. 

Technological change gives and takes

Watch more: Is technological change impacting humanity for good?

Just like technological progress finds some jobs becoming obsolete, it also brings it with it new employment opportunities

Consider this anecdote: Just like word processors and computers eliminated thousands of jobs involved in the production of type writers, they brought forth a demand for much more. From computer engineers, to software developers, to IT maintenance jobs and much more, the ‘give and take’ of this scenario was heavily skewed in the favor of giving – i.e. creating more jobs.

Some data indicates a purely ‘give’ situation even. 

“According to McKinsey, about 77% of companies “expect no net change in the size of their workforces in either Europe or the United States as a result of adopting automation and AI technologies,” Forbes reported. “Indeed, more than 17% expect their workforces on both sides of the Atlantic to grow.”

Consider this example by CNBC: “At first, ATMs reduced the average number of workers in a given bank branch. But they also made it more affordable for banks to open new branches, and drove up the number of overall banking transactions. According to research by Ravin Jesuthasan and John W. Boudreau, authors of “Reinventing Jobs,” in 1985 the U.S. had 60,000 ATMs and 485,000 bank tellers. By 2002 the number of ATMs increased to 352,000 and the number of human bank tellers also spiked, to 527,000.”

AI and automation can also help save lives through the elimination of life-threatening jobs such as fuel pipeline inspections, nuclear decommissioning, mine clearing and more. 


The 4th Industrial Revolution presents a new opportunity for self-improvement 

Besides creating new jobs, the 4th Industrial Revolution is enabling a major opportunity: upskilling

Industry members have often discussed the matter of future-proofing workforces in the Digital Age through upskilling practices. 

Just this year, Amazon announced that it would be spending $700 million on training for 100,000 employees across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network to help them upskill within – or outside – Amazon. 

“Entrepreneur and technology expert Monica Eaton-Cardone, says that with automation on the cusp of upending every U.S. industry, businesses should view this as an opportunity to retrain and “upskill” employees in jobs at risk of being replaced,” CMSWire writes. 

Eaton-Cardone continued: “It will ultimately be up to individuals to expand on their skillsets. That said, given the far-reaching impacts of automation, every business has a vested interest in making reskilling a priority.”

Upskilling provides the perfect opportunity for addressing the potential job loss that will come as a result of technological change, yet only 42% of technology industry CEOs plan to upskill a majority of their workforce during the next three years, according to a 2019 KPMG report

While technological change is inevitable, we still have agency, whether we are employees, managers and CEOs, or business owners, in order to do something about the 4th Industrial Revolution and the impending job loss. The time to upskill is now. 

This series is brought to you in partnership with HP UAE