By Christine Long
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Collaborative technologies, robots and artificial intelligence will transform the nature of work in the next decade, according to a new report. And many Australians are comfortable with that advance in technology if it means they can avoid going into the office every day.
The report, compiled by author, futurist and chief executive of Advanced Human Technologies Group Ross Dawson on behalf of Intel Security, shines a light on the way technology will shape our working lives, homes and health by 2025.
For one thing by 2025 “our work environments and interactions will be more global thanks to virtual reality,” says Dawson.
It’s a shift that will go hand-in-hand with a rapid increase in self-employment as larger organisations cut the number of permanent employees and hire expertise from anywhere in the world only when they need it.
As the Safeguarding the Future of Digital Australia in 2025 report highlights there are likely to be big winners and losers from the technological change that will redefine our working lives.
It won’t just be knowledge work that will be performed remotely, says Dawson. Everything from surgery to mining machinery operation will routinely be completed by people far away.
In the Pilbara mining machinery is already operated remotely and virtual surgery has been taking place for more than a decade in cases when a very high degree of specialisation is required.
“We’re also seeing the robotisation of surgery,” says Dawson. Robot-assisted prostate cancer surgery is now commonplace, for instance.
Automation is already affecting low-level functions such as data entry. Process-oriented roles in mining and financial services will also to continue to be among the losers from technological change. “For example, a lot of the work in financial processing – credit card processing or insurance processing – quite a lot of those jobs can either be done remotely or automated.”
Although it’s likely to take longer to have an impact, automation will affect jobs that involve driving as the technology for driverless cars is developed. Dawson says taxi-drivers are likely to be “most vulnerable” as developments such as Google’s driverless cars give people the ability to make local trips without the need for someone at the wheel. Couriers and truck drivers are likely to be affected too.
Just as ATMs replaced many bank tellers, other low-value service jobs will become obsolete. For instance, Dawson says, providing service in fast-food restaurants is likely to be automated.
“Where people are able to get things cheaper as a result of having things automated that will also be replaced,” says Dawson, adding that high-value service positions, such as those in a high-quality restaurant, are likely to survive.
The impact of technological change is likely to be slower in some fields such as plumbing and building trades. “Some of that you can’t take away,” he says, adding that even some of that work is being globalised. “One of the interesting developments that, for example, we are seeing is that we are getting prefabricated parts in China that are assembled in Australia where they are being built to specification.”
Other jobs will rapidly emerge to replace those that disappear, with an emphasis on the creativity and relationship skills that machines will still lack.
They are changes that many Australians appear happy to embrace, according to a Newspoll survey of 1230 Australians included in the report. Almost half (46 per cent) of those aged 18-64 said they would be interested in using technology such as virtual reality to avoid going into the office every day. The figure was even higher among those aged 25-34, with 62 per cent saying they would be interested in using it for work purposes.
However, a quarter of Australians aged 18-64 said they were not interested in using such technology. Dawson says the result probably reflects the fact that some people “want to be physically present where they can pat somebody on the back or have a handshake.”
He thinks that desire will lead to a change in the typical workspace. Rather than choosing between centralised offices or working from home, halfway houses such as co-working spaces will grow in popularity.
Ultimately, he believes, the shifts produced by technological change can provide opportunities for Australians to market themselves to clients around the world.
“There is an opportunity in a world of global work for Australians to be world-class at co-ordinating that. For example, to have clients in Australia, to have clients in Europe and the US, to have the project management skills and the cultural skills to work and to bring together groups of people doing jobs remotely.”