We sat down with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and asked him the question on many people’s lips: Will robots really take all our jobs – and what can we do about it?
You don’t need to be a Luddite to be concerned about machines dominating our lives: they already do. According to CEDA's 2015 report, Australia's Future Workforce? it’s a reality that 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce (more than five million people) could be replaced by automation within the next 10 to 20 years.
Australia’s favourite scientist, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, is as far from being a Luddite as it’s possible to get, but he does agree with one basic premise of their infamous anti-technology doctrine, and that is that businesses should focus investment on machines that make jobs safer, help people perform better and do the necessary jobs no-one wants to do – instead of replacing human workers with robots that will churn through tasks without rest or the need for requests.
Jobs robots and machines can already do include:
- Checkout operator
- Drinks waiter
- Early childhood teacher
- Electrical goods factory worker
- Factory worker
- Fast food cooks and server
- Foot soldier
- Middle manager
- News journalist
- Sport umpire
- Taxi driver
- Truck driver
Universal basic income
While it’s easy to understand why businesses want to reduce the cost of human labour, according to tech visionary Elon Musk, the approach is shortsighted and will result in the need for a universal basic income. Dr Karl agrees. “You can’t just have business owners earning all the money,” he argues. “Who will be able to afford to buy what they’re selling? We need to accept that many jobs people have now simply won’t exist, which means full employment could become impossible. So we need to redefine the work we do – and evolve to a point where we make sure the government ensures everyone gets a decent living wage,” he adds.
Getting in front of change
This isn’t the first time the evolution of technology has radically altered the human labour force – it happened at mass scale during the Industrial Revolution. If you feel your job may go the way of the blacksmith, what can you do?
Dr Karl believes some people can thrive in certain careers simply by being great at being human. He cites examples including baristas, fitness instructors, and entertainers. Good ol’ fashioned thinking outside the box can go a long way too. “Research and curiosity give us hope because they’re the hardest things for machines to learn,” he muses. “News journalism and looking up legal precedents are easy for computers, but they can’t yet handle investigative journalism or working a room of people to persuade them to change their minds.”
The moral of the story is to be open to change. It doesn’t matter the field, the most successful people are passionate about what they do, invest in getting better at it, and are open to evolving. “Find your natural skill,” is Dr Karl’s advice. “Go with your natural strengths and stay curious – computers aren’t very good at curiosity.
Jobs of the futureThe Federal Government’s Future Focus report states these areas will be in hot demand in Australia by 2025:
Top growth industries
- Health care and social assistance – projected to increase by up to 798,000 jobs
- Professional, scientific and technical services – projected to increase by up to 583,000 jobs
- Education and training – projected to increase by up to 503,700 jobs
Tertiary qualified jobs
Advertising and sales managers
Software and applications programmers
CEO and managing directors
Vocational and trade jobs
Aged and disabled carers
Nursing support and personal care
Sources: CSIRO and Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford