- 97 million new roles will be created by 2025 as humans, machines and algorithms increasingly work together, the World Economic Forum predicts.
- But for some, the future of work is already here.
- Drone pilots in Africa are being trained to deliver medicines to inaccessible places.
- A robot called Moxi is helping hospital staff spend more time with patients.
- And artificial intelligence is helping to restore coral, saving thousands of hours of human time.
Technology is changing the world of work. In its Future of Jobs Report 2020, the World Economic Forum predicts that 85 million jobs will be displaced by automation and technology advances by 2025.
But more new roles will be created – 97 million, the Forum predicts – as humans, machines and algorithms increasingly work together.
And this future of jobs may be arriving sooner than we think.
Jobs of the future are already here
Here are three ways humans and robots are already working together.
1. Drones that deliver help
In Africa, drones are being used to deliver medicines in Malawi. Drone academies in Benin and Sierra Leone in West Africa are training local people in drone piloting and addressing skills gaps in the technology.
German aerospace company Wingcopter makes the drones for commercial and humanitarian work.
“Transit is not possible through roads, so drones come in and help poorer and less advantaged people have access to medicine,” explains Nthambi Mpazanje, Chief Remote Pilot At Wingcopter.
Automation is a scary word for many people because they feel machines will take away their job, says Andy Fisanich, Head of Humanitarian Programs at Wingcopter. But the reality is that technology will actually lead to “better standards, better skilled jobs and more opportunity,” says Fisanich. Traditional jobs will transition into “new and more exciting jobs of the future,” she says.
2. Robots that help nurses
In hospitals, a robot called Moxi is helping clinical staff fetch and deliver things including lab samples, medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies. By handling mundane tasks, the robot frees up time for nurses and clinicians to focus on patient care.
Moxi is built by Diligent Robotics, an artificial intelligence company based in Texas in the United States. The company’s co-founder, Andrea Thomaz, says it’s the “deep connection with their patients” that nurses and clinicians say they love most about their jobs.
Patients may have more interactions with automation and technology in the jobs of the future, but Thomaz feels person-to-person caregiving will always be here.
What is the World Economic Forum doing about drones?
The World Economic Forum is partnering with governments and companies to create flexible regulations that allow drones to be manufactured and used in various ways to help society and the economy.
Drones can do many wonderful things, but their upsides are often overshadowed by concerns about privacy, collisions and other potential dangers. To make matters worse, government regulations have not been able to keep up with the speed of technological innovation.
In 2017 the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution teamed up with the Government of Rwanda to draft the world’s first framework for governing drones at scale. Using a performance-based approach that set minimum safety requirements instead of equipment specifications, this innovative regulatory framework gave drone manufacturers the flexibility to design and test different types of drones. These drones have delivered life-saving vaccines, conducted agricultural land surveys, inspected infrastructure and had many other socially beneficial uses in Rwanda.
Today, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is working with governments and companies in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America to co-design and pilot agile policies that bring all the social and economic benefits of drone technology while minimizing its risks.
3. Coral restoration robots
With the world’s coral reefs suffering the effects of climate change, technology is increasingly stepping in to help.
To clean and maintain 10,000 coral fragments, three people would need to work full-time for a year, putting in 4,000 hours of work, research shows. Now a coral farming robot is using computer automation – AI – to cut costs and save time.
A device called Charm – which stands for Coral Husbandry Automated Raceway Machine – has a robotic arm with soft brushes that clean algae from corals, and a camera that detects the corals. It can also feed coral when they’re hungry and identify pests.
Massachusetts Institution of Technology graduate Stephen Rodan invented Charm. He says the technology can “grow thousands to hopefully millions of coral by the touch of a button” and views Charm as a useful tool in the race to “help restore coral reefs around the world”.
How can we prepare for the new world of work?
Employers expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to just over 70% of their employees by 2025, according to the Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020. An average of 66% of employers surveyed for the report also expect to get a return on their investment in upskilling and reskilling within one year.
“Everything you want to learn is available on the internet,” says Chris Do, Chief Executive and Founder of online education platform The Futur. It’s also easier, quicker and cheaper to explore than, for example, a traditional university application.
Workshops, courses, e-books, training and one-to-one mentorship are some of the resources available online, Do says.
Data analysts, machine learning specialists and robotics engineers are among the roles that are growing in demand, the World Economic Forum finds. But softer skills are also needed. These include problem-solving, creativity, working with people and resilience.