The massive displacement of human labour by technology has not begun today. The debate on the effects of technology on the future of work has only focused on developed countries.
However, the radical changes that will come with the future of work will affect the entire globe. The big questions should be ‘What does the future of work entail?’ and ‘Are we prepared for it?’ As some great minds put it, it is almost impossible to predict the future. However, taking a keen look into today’s technological trends, it is possible to give an expression of the future of work.
The Two Sides of the Coin
The ingress of technology into the world of work is viewed from two different perspectives. For the pessimists, the disruption of workforces and the displacement of human labour is significantly contributed by the introduction of general-purpose technologies. These include artificial intelligence (AI), 3-D Printing, and the Internet of Things. The pessimists believe that such technologies will result in havoc and destitution if certain forms of social solidarity such as universal basic income are not adopted.
The optimistic individuals, on the other hand, take technological developments as tools to propel humanity progressively. Their view is that technology provides solutions that offer unmatched levels of success to humanity. While the two views may be justified, it can be quite challenging to know which side to pick when predicting the future of work. This is particularly true when we are dealing with such a complex phenomenon as the world economy.
Displacement of Human Labour
Since the early nineteenth century, human labour has been experiencing massive displacements following the different forms of revolution. For example, the agrarian and industrial revolutions experienced across specific parts of the world led to the displacement of thousands of employees working in the farms and factories, respectively.
Fundamentally, the technological disruption perceived to happen in the next few years will also cause a similar displacement. Following the displacement trends seen over the past decades, it is almost predictable what the future of work holds. When technology is introduced in places of work, it displaces specific amounts of human labour as it creates some other forms of labour. For example, the inception of websites replaced the use of printed materials leading to the creation of more job opportunities for web designers.
The Diffusion Capacity of Technology
One of the crucial factors to consider when analysing the future of work is the ‘diffusability’ of various technologies. The more they diffuse across world, the more significant the impact they can cause in a short duration. The diffusion capacity of technology is influenced by such factors as ease of use, dependence on preceding technologies, and the ability of countries to purchase the technology.