It’s unavoidable: the Internet of Things will kill many jobs. Self-driving cars alone could put millions out of work. And the manufacturing sector, already reeling from decades of job losses, could see millions of more jobs replaced by machines. The convergence of IoT and cognitive computing could also threaten many prestigious jobs as computers learn to perform thinking tasks rather than solely mechanical ones.
“We will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value,” write venture investor William H. Davidow and technology writer Michael S. Malone in Harvard Business Review. “Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century.”
But great challenges also bring great opportunity. Connected intelligent platforms are poised to enable a quantum leap in productivity and revenue. IoT technology may do away with the need for some jobs, but it will create job opportunities as well. Here’s how professionals and companies can stay competitive in an IoT era:
1. Put AI to Work for You
In September, Amazon announced that its Alexa voice-activated software had acquired more than 3000 skills, up from 135 in January. IBM’s cognitive computing platform Watson can read 40 million documents in a mere 15 seconds. Even more astounding is the exponential growth curve of such technologies, which are already starting to replicate tasks once performed by highly paid workers.
But instead of fretting about the quickly expanding power of artificial intelligence, smart workers should study it and find opportunities for leveraging its power. Look for ways to use the power of AI to augment, rather than solely automate, human work, recommends Babson College professor Thomas H. Davenport in Harvard Business Review.
The strategy has proven to work in chess, where teams of humans and machines, or “centaurs,” have defeated the best chess software. In human chess matches, players are forced to analyze the pros and cons of each possible move. But in centaur chess, human teams can deploy chess engines to do this work for them and suggest moves. Then, the team can choose between those suggestions, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the chess engines making them.
The same basic approach is suited for the workplace. In fact, financial planners are already beginning to use a similar tactic to assess investment recommendations for their clients, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some companies are also using technologies like IBM’s Watson technology for recruiting applications including screening résumés. Expect this trickle of activity to turn into a flood.
2. Tap the Power of the Crowd
Western workplace culture has long expounded the virtues of the individual worker. “Most businesses are built on the idea of an ideal worker being like an eagle, strong, self-motivated, and independent worker,” says Tripp Braden, an executive recruiter at Strategic Performance Partners. “But the paradigm is becoming more collaborative and team-based.”
Tamara McCleary agrees. “As we head into a new age, we are disrupting the notion of one job being completely distinct from another. IoT is also leading to shifts in collaboration between fields,” McCleary says. “It is breaking down barriers between different fields such as big data, security, energy and utilities, smart buildings, and industrial manufacturing. And for many companies, IoT is enabling a transition from product to services. This shift demands more skill versatility from workers.”