Global Jobs Revolution Digitization and Artificial Intelligence

Gerd Leonhard is a futurist and futures consultant, international keynote speaker and strategy coach, author, founder and CEO of ‘The Futures Agency’. Gerd Leonhard: «Predicting how we will live and work in 35 years is impossible.»

Gerd Leonhard is a futurist and futures consultant, international keynote speaker and strategy coach, author, founder and CEO of ‘The Futures Agency’. He talks to Langmeier Software about future technologies, the loss of privacy, as well as the job market of the future.

Mr. Leonhard, where do you see the most disruptive changes between now and the year 2049?

One thing first. As a futurist and future consultant, I try to recognize future trends and developments, bring them together and identify possible future scenarios in period of the next five to seven years. The art here is to observe well, to listen, and to bring together many different data and opinions in order to show my clients a plausible and preferred path to the future.

To return to your question: Predicting how we will live and work in 35 years is impossible. What we can say today is that we are living in a time where the use of new technologies is accelerating extensively. We are experiencing a kind of hyper-efficiency that brings better and better software, cheaper devices and technologies, and high-speed mobiles with broadband. Digital applications and the internet are currently working to not only conquer industry – keyword: Industry 4.0 – but have taken their place in our everyday lives. Suddenly, things are possible that until recently were considered dreams of the future. Robots support doctors during operations, we no longer have to type anything in but ask our mobile phone (Siri, Google Now) for directions, the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also making huge progress. We have not reached the end of the development.

In a few years, our habits regarding consumption, leisure, and shopping will be completely different. The economy around us is changing exponentially. This has consequences: Traditional trades and services are disappearing. The traditional taxi industry and its possible displacement by the much more convenient „Uber“ is a classic example of digital Darwinism that will increase.

A lot of technologies can't function without data collection after all. I see the world heading towards a complete abandonment of individual privacy. What's your take on this? Does privacy look as bleak as I imagine?

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg predicted in 2010 that privacy would no longer be a social norm. Today, we're seeing people willingly give up their privacy for cool platforms and networks. They don't read the fine print and terms of use, or they would know that they are paying with their data to use the supposedly free platforms on the Internet. The internet companies then know what is good for me and supply me with offers without being asked. I assume that data will continue to be shared openly in the future. But despite statements to the contrary, for example by Google, I believe that people's privacy is not yet lost. Of course, the collection of data also carries the risk of misuse. I therefore advocate a digital social contract – on a state or global level – that regulates how our data is handled.

What impact will the data-collecting frenzy of technology have on people's social behavior?

A Big Data and Big Internet society is currently emerging, and it is not yet clear what of it users will actually accept. If, for example, we use our mobile phone to disclose where we park our car and this is relevant for my car insurance premium, then I am convinced that resistance will arise. The fact is that data does not always reflect the whole reality, including human reality. Blindly trusting the data (the so-called data hybrid) therefore does not always make sense. An example is the search for a partner on the Internet: Based on the data of the other person, we believe we know whether this person is a good match for us. But there are many other aspects that cannot be quantified at all, even with Big Data. Generally speaking, technology and the data tsunamis will mean that in the future we may have to say goodbye to things we take for granted today:  In the future, we will no longer check ourselves to see if we are fit, but leave this to the Nike Fluid Band or Jam App - a terrifying thought for many of us. We approach our potential partners only virtually and no longer know how to address a person in the train compartment next to us. I guess it can be heaven or hell.

«Digital assistants will replace accountants, financial data analysts and supermarket cashiers in the next 10 to 20 years.»

I consider it difficult to separate the important from the unimportant among the wealth of information available today. Does the information-heavy nature of the current age lead to a kind of „knowledge-scissors“ between those who can filter important information and those who cannot?

The Internet is democratizing knowledge around the world and making it available to all.  Never before have so many people had access to so much information. Now we just have to learn to use it, but jobs to do so are being created.  For many people it is indeed becoming increasingly difficult to separate the important from the unimportant - because the noise is sometimes unbearable. On the Internet, with its wealth of information, many people like to get lost. Advising people on how to use the Internet is also a profession that is likely to become established. That there will be a widening „knowledge gap“ I doubt. It is more conceivable that a „filter bubble“ or „information bubble“ (filter bubble) will occur: websites use algorithms to predict what information might be relevant for the user. This effectively isolates users in a „bubble“ where there is no room for information that contradicts the user's views.

The rationalization away of labor currently seems to be going into another round. We now do airport check-in at a vending machine – and we pay at the grocery store without a cashier. Which jobs are at risk?

Simple, repetitive and many manual jobs can also be done by machines. Smart software, robots and digital assistants, for example, will replace accountants, financial data analysts and supermarket cashiers in the next 10 to 20 years. In Europe, up to 65% of all current jobs are at risk. The fact is: we are facing a global job revolution  through digitization, automation and artificial intelligence.

Can the jobs lost in this way  be replaced by new jobs created in the future?

Partly quite certainly, and partly not at all. In Switzerland, we have there certainly quite good cards but in China or India rather not. With the disappearance of hundreds of millions of jobs, but also new professions arise. Half of the professions that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. The following jobs will already exist in just a few years:

  • Privacy Managers: They help people and companies reclaim their data sovereignty. To do this, they also free data held hostage by institutions and the media for their clients, if necessary, and help them change or delete personal traces on the Internet and search engines.
  • Artificial Intelligence Supervisors: In the future, artificial intelligence supervisors will monitor ultra-smart software, robots, and our digital assistants. If necessary, they will also adjust them properly and ensure that the machines do not want to do away with us altogether sooner or later.
  • Offline Therapist: Since the triumph of social media and mobile computing, more and more people are wrestling over the tyranny of being constantly online, where they are slain with breaking news, mails, messages, push information and updates. The Offline Therapist helps people find the balance between being accessible and being themselves, and shows them how to enjoy being offline as a luxury.
  • Social Graph Analysts and Branded Story Designers: Today's marketers are becoming branded story designers, placing pertinent stories about brands and products on social networks. The traditional advertising executive will soon be a thing of the past.
  • Virtual tour guide: Sights such as natural spectacles and cities and traditions can soon be experienced at home in comfort and in three dimensions as if you were there yourself. The technologies for this already exist. The virtual tour guide leads people on adventurous trips and guarantees that nothing will go wrong.

Generally, for the job market of the future: we should advise our children that they take up professions in which the right hemisphere of the brain, where creativity resides, is engaged – the „more human“ the jobs are, the greater chances they will have in the job market of the future.

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About the Author , Founder and CEO of Langmeier Software GmbH
Urs Langmeier Urs Langmeier is founder and CEO of Langmeier Software GmbH and thus responsible for the strategic further development of Langmeier software solutions.

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