Magazine article New Zealand Management

Thought Leader: Rapid Robots & Happy Humans

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Thought Leader: Rapid Robots & Happy Humans

Article excerpt

Byline: James H Lee

Many jobs are not only being outsourced to people in other countries. They are also being "other-sourced" to automated workers. Jared Weiner, a futurist at consultants Weiner Edrich & Brown, predicts we'll see more white-collar jobs lost to software algorithms, intelligent computers and robotics. While automation has already had a significant impact on manufacturing, we are just beginning to see the impact of artificial intelligence on the traditional professions.

Weiner notes that the financial services industry is becoming increasingly other-sourced and is experiencing a modern industrial revolution of its own.

Financial analysts have been partially replaced with quantitative analytic systems and floor traders are now competing with computerised trading algorithms. Mutual funds and traditional portfolio managers have lost assets in recent years to ETFs (exchange-traded funds), many of which offer completely automated strategies.

According to MIT economist David Autor, the jobs that are currently being lost involve middle-skilled cognitive and productive activities. These tasks follow clear and easily understood procedures that can reliably be transcribed into software instructions or subcontracted to overseas labour.

Autor writes that labour markets worldwide are rapidly becoming polarised and he sees a clustering of job opportunities at opposite ends of the skills spectrum.

At one end of the spectrum are low-paying service-oriented jobs that require personal interaction and the manipulation of machinery in unpredictable environments. Examples might include driving a vehicle in traffic, cooking food in a busy kitchen, or taking care of cranky pre-schoolers. Unless people decide to freight their toddlers to India for cheaper childcare, these tasks will still need to be performed locally.

To the extent that many service jobs involve human interaction, they also require skills such as empathy and interpersonal communication. Good employees can see things from the customer's perspective.

At the other end of the spectrum are jobs that require creativity, ambiguity and high levels of personal training and judgement. …

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