The First Industrial Revolution mechanized production. The Second used electricity to create mass production. The Third, known as the Digital Revolution, developed computers and information technology to automate production. The Fourth Revolution builds on the Third, but differentiates itself by the speed of technological breakthroughs and the impacts of new systems. As we find ourselves amidst the fourth industrial revolution, the world of work changes entirely. The ‘future of work’, generally regarded theoretically, is becoming today’s reality everywhere.
The continuous technological breakthroughs of our era change the nature of tasks and the way they are executed. Nowadays, machines and algorithms are capable of performing tasks just as well as humans – if not better. Opinions on this matter go from a dystopian world where robots take over, leaving millions unemployed, to a world full of new opportunities revolutionizing society. Low-level jobs are being automated, therefore disappearing. However, this significant disruption opens the prospect of new jobs in the future, created through technological advances. Indeed, “In purely quantitative terms, 75 million current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms, while 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time”.
What are the jobs of the future?
In the coming years, key sectors generating jobs will include technology and the green economy. Jobs depending on fundamental human traits, like creativity, cannot be replaced by technology, will also be extremely sought after. The digitalization of workplaces creates a growing shift between job tasks executed by humans job tasks executed by machines. A WEF study shows that today, 71% of total task hours across industries are performed by humans and 29% by machines or algorithms. These numbers are however expected to shift by 2022. On average, 58% of task hours will be performed by humans and 42% by machines or algorithms.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) Specialist
- Amazon defines AI as “the field of computer science dedicated to solving cognitive problems commonly associated with human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving, and pattern recognition.”
- The Third and Fourth Industrial Revolution are based almost entirely on AI and its subset machine-learning systems. AI drives the future of work. As it keeps growing, more and more job opportunities arise in that sector.
- Data Analyst and Scientist
- Data Analysis/Science consists of extracting and interpreting information from data. This job involves various repetitive, time-consuming tasks, which have been automated. Smart data preparation saves considerable amounts of time finding and formatting the data, giving analysts more time to interpret it.
- However, AI has fundamental limitations. Only humans possess the intelligence capable of contextualizing data to make it relevant. Understanding and applying processed information is the pillar of data analysis. Therefore, although part of the job is automated, data analyst remains a job of the future.
- Web, Software and App Developer & Analyst
- WEF says demand for web, software and app developers/analysts is expected to rocket by 2022. Professionals responsible for the creation, monitoring and maintenance of software infrastructures and applications that enable us to perform tasks electronically will be extremely sought after in the near future.
- Cyber Security Specialist
- The current and future amount of private data generated by the use of technology represents an opportunity just as much as a threat. The inherent risks regarding data protection are considerable. Being an expert in cybersecurity is a valuable skill for the future of work.
- Environmental Scientist, Energy Engineer, Trash/Waste Engineer
- The world’s supply of fossil fuels is running out, and finding alternative, renewable or new sources of energy is crucial for our planet’s future. This industry will be extremely significant and represents a haven of opportunities for future employment.
- Humans produce about 1.1 billion kgs of waste every year, and finding a way to dispose of it in a sustainable way will be of utmost priority. With the growing incentive to reuse and recycle waste for energy, engineers in this field will be valued in the future.
- Specialist in Food Engineering
- The world’s population keeps growing and the planet’s resources are running out. Soon, it will be necessary to discover how to feed the population sustainably. Food engineering tasks include processing of raw materials for human consumption, or innovative products with longer shelf life…
Technology cannot take over every job possibility. Creativity is an essential part of most jobs and is very demanded. AI is a revolutionary tool enabling companies to produce faster and more efficiently. However, it remains fairly limited: it cannot ‘create’ anything itself. It is unable to design a building, see the beauty in a picture, has no taste of esthetic… Therefore, jobs that require some kind of creative complementarity will remain in the future.
As technological breakthroughs shift the frontier between work performed by humans and machines, global labour markets are likely to undergo major transformations. Skills growing in prominence include adaptability and flexibility, as the change will be constant, analytical thinking and various forms of technology competency. “Human” skills such as creativity, initiative, critical thinking or persuasion will retain or increase in value.