‘Is humanity progressing towards its own obsolescence work-wise? Not yet’

Vikas Datta

IANS

 

Is the human advancement in science and technology leading us to the point when we might not need to exert ourselves to run our world and become bystanders instead of participants? Not yet, say experts, but we need to take some remedial measures, especially on the educational front, to retain our relevance.

 

While technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning have engendered questions on the conventional notion of work, the anthropoid age is not over yet, a distinguished panel maintained at a session, titled “The End of Work: Automation and Entrepreneurship” at the “Jaipur Literature Festival 2018” on January 26.

 

Financial journalist Mihir S. Sharma, who began by asking how work would appear two decades hence, saw Tata Sons former Executive Director and Kiran Energy founder Alan Rosling contend that a major instance of the paradigm shift in the nature of work has been the Chinese economy’s zooming up, which can be termed the biggest economic phenomenon since the Industrial Revolution.

 

However, Rosling also stressed that this triumph of technology has a negative political fallout as it is liable to leave millions of people jobless in the future and exacerbate the “sense of disenfranchisement”, exemplified most notably by Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential polls.

 

Journalist and author Carlo Pizzati, whose books include “Edge Of An Era” and “Technoshamans”, was however of the opinion that while technology will change the nature of work, jobs requiring a human hand and/or emotional understanding – psychiatry and social help notably – are unlikely to disappear.

 

Seeking to identify the causes for the job-automation conundrum, Professor of Global Economics at Trinity College, Dublin, David McWilliams faulted the education system, which is mostly set in the notion of getting “the single right answer” and discourages innovative, out-of-the box thinking due to fear of failure.

 

All panelists agreed that quality education can help address the issue of jobs to be done by humans – becoming obsolete in the future. Pizzati urged promoting liberal arts in universities, pointing out that they help develop the critical thinking skills necessary in a world seeing constant interaction with machines, quoting Albert Einstein, who said: “It’s in the irrational that you find the idea, and it’s in the rational that you prove it.”

 

Rosling, while commending India’s growth in the service industry, said it has a long way to go in terms of product innovation, which can be achieved by promoting education and fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship among the youth.

 

McWilliams, however, said “India needs less innovation” since wage levels here are low. “Innovation that is aimed at enhancing productivity will render millions of Indians jobless and thus there is no need for India to innovate at a pace at which Germany does,” he said.

 

In a lighter vein, he remarked that the biggest source of fake news today isn’t the American media; rather, it is the way that Silicon Valley makes everyone feel they are “missing out” on a wave of innovation.

 

Author Rashmi Bansal stressed that we be happy at work. “Work is love made visible. We as individuals have to find that sweet spot in our career that speaks to our soul. We must look inwards.”

 

Sharma had some prophetic last words. “If there is any part of your work that you are bored with, which can be done automatically without you having to think, that job will go away in five years.”

 

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