Thoughts On – 
The Digital Industrial Revolution

I have been getting a lot of questions recently about the impact of technology and our future. There’s a lot of concern that technology, specifically Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, will kill a massive number of jobs. As we enter what is being called the Digital Industrial Revolution I can understand the concern, I personally can’t think of a job that won’t be impacted. Some jobs will be impacted more than others, but every job will be impacted at different degrees and at different times.

I don’t think this should raise panic, it’s important to remember that with every new innovation new opportunities are created. Technology has raised living standards, made products more affordable, created new demand, and created new jobs in areas we never before imagined. We need to make this a positive experience, the possibilities it brings to amplify human ingenuity and augmenting people’s capabilities will help achieve things we want to accomplish today. It will also help us discover things we are not yet aware exists. To achieve amazing things will require that machines and humans work together as the combination is more powerful than a machine or a human working alone.

When you look back in history the fundamental element in the previous Industrial revolution was the use of power, specifically adding artificial power to a process. We added power to transportation, manufacturing, communications, medical, basically anything that a human could physically do but could be improved by adding electricity. The improvements were drastic and over the duration created significant change. Jobs changed and the world around it changed, some jobs disappeared, but so many new jobs were created. This helped demand in products and services increase to levels that required significant increases in job openings.

Today productivity has become stagnant for many reasons, one key factor is that we simply have run out of things to electrify. Our next major productivity cycle will be driven by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. As we begin this journey into the Digital Industrial Revolution we will focus on adding Artificial Intelligence and sensors into everything we can. We will build out networks of sensors and systems that are generating data combined Machine Learning. This combination will help us take known data and develop a model to predict unknown data. We will go from computers telling us what happened, why did it happen, what will happen, to what should I do. The sensors coming from the Internet of Things (IoT) will act as a central nervous system to computers to allow the systems the ability to be aware of their environment. The sensors will generate massive volumes of data, and as the systems gain more data they will continue to improve at an exponential rate.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence has been around a long time. We are now starting to see rapid advances with machine learning algorithms. Computers now have the ability to see and can process images better than humans. Computers can read and translate text better and faster than humans. Computers can hear and process audio with greater accuracy and to a deeper level. With all these advances in technology there will be an impact to us and we are all going to have to think about where the next opportunity is and how we need to adjust and pivot.

There are many aspects that we have to consider that spans across employees all the way to the top as business owners. We all need to start changing our mindset. We must be willing to adjust and pivot as things change. Experience and knowledge are less relevant, whereas the capacities to learn and adapt, be resilient, and connect with others have become a crucial skill.

Companies have a great responsibility and a vested interest in seeing people succeed. If technology were to wipe out all jobs and massive numbers of individuals were out of work, who would be able to buy the various good and services the companies are attempting to sell? Companies have to focus on these new technologies as tools that will help augment an individuals capabilities. Organizations need to evaluate staffing requirements and focus on leveraging machines in areas where it can excel at frequent high-volume tasks. This is critical in freeing up the employees to do more creative tasks and tasks that require higher level thinking to connect things together.

When you think of taxi services it is pretty obvious that autonomous vehicles will impact that industry. Think about the impact to automobile sales and auto insurance as other areas where technology advances will create disruption. The taxi driver will no longer be in the car driving the individual, auto sales will drop as people only own one car and call an autonomous vehicle from there mobile device for many of their rides. The auto insurance industry will move from insuring the individuals to insuring the autonomous vehicle companies since its there software and machines that are driving the vehicle and responsible for the risks. With that new jobs will be created, call center jobs to deal with cars that need human intervention. New Insurance programs offerings based on the new risks. Field technicians to help repair cars in the field. New forms of entertainment as individuals can now leverage their travel time in new ways.

So what should you do now and into the future? Below are some key areas we all need to start focusing on.

  • Don’t let your motivation begin by the fear of starvation, accept that change is coming and start planning and getting engaged.
  • Accept that you will always be learning. Focus on getting smart on something, then move up and learn more. Success in the future will be about one’s willingness to learn and engage in creative activities.
  • Be willing to adapt – and be adaptable. Review your current role and identify anything that is a frequent high-volume task. Put effort to help incorporate artificial intelligence into those roles and free yourself to work on high level tasks.
  • Help to make your organizations feel like a community and engage with people to work together with the machines, not against them. Teams of humans and machines will reach new heights over what a machine or human working alone can achieve.
  • Our governments and companies need to engage and start thinking about transforming staff through new higher level tasks, continuous learning, and continuous change for opportunities. Let’s not fall behind.

As we embark on the Digital Industrial Revolution we will see two areas in high need for workers. Technology roles will continue to grow and expand as the need for more business focused technologists will be in high demand. We will also see an increase in creative opportunities that will help to drive new areas of opportunity.

As a final thought, don’t fear technology and the path we are on. Think about how many jobs that are not safe, fun, or interesting. Why not let technology do it, so we can focus on more interesting and exciting work.

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