Published on April 23rd, 2012 | by thetoolsman11
Rise Of The Machines
Think about every science fiction film you ever watched. Most of the gadgets and concepts we saw in those films seemed frankly impossible, but are now part of our everyday reality. Take for example the Tupac hologram: If you have ever watched Star Trek or Star Wars, the concept of a hologram will not be new. What is interesting is that people had imagined these things 20 years ago, or even earlier.
There is little doubt that technology will change every part of our lives, and is already doing so in all kinds of subtle ways. I am sure it must have been ages since anyone reading this queued up in a bank to withdraw money from their account, and with the mobile money push gathering steam, it could be ages before many of us enter a bank for anything at all.
A lot of what I’ll be trying to shed light on in this column is the various ways technology will change our lives: mostly for the better, sometimes for the worse. There is a tendency to get very scared when entering uncharted territory, and we ‘the millennial generation’, will be among the first to experience the full range of possibilities that accelerating technology will bring to light. I believe that no one should be a zombie. I believe that if we are more aware of our surroundings and with the way our world is changing, we are empowered to make the future work for us, to be in charge of our individual and collective destinies, instead of being at the mercy of events.
One of the most obvious ways technology is affecting us right now, is in the world of work. We are currently experiencing what has been called ‘the second economy’, and the ‘third industrial revolution’. Essentially, it is about the use of machines in taking over repetitive, routine tasks from humans. If a task can be reduced to a specific number of steps, the chances are that it can be done, or is already being done, by a machine. This means one thing: if you can imagine a machine doing your job, you could lose that job at any moment. I wish there was a better way to put this, but there isn’t.
It not only means that humans carrying out repetitive tasks are losing their jobs a lot, it also means that companies have to hire a lot less people than they used to. Many of the recorded job losses that have happened in the US, for instance, are not coming back because the nature of the unemployment is as a result of technological advances. The Economist gave a telling example of a car company that almost doubled the amount of cars it produced without hiring too many more people. In 1999, a Nissan factory in the UK built 271, 157 vehicles with 4,594 people. In 2011, they made 480, 485 with 5, 462 people.
So, the question then becomes: how do we position ourselves and thrive in these rapidly changing times? We cannot continue to rely on old patterns of thought that are no longer applicable. The general rule is: we must be able to do things that computers can’t, which is, be creative. Creativity comes in many forms. One of the examples is the ability to tackle new problems and think on your feet. When you are put in positions where you can’t rely on a specific manual or template, you are exhibiting traits that will take a good while for any machine to copy. This could mean taking up courses that are design related, for example. Or learning to draw.
In this day and age, it is also becoming increasingly necessary for everyone to be familiar with how computers work. The top job in the US right now is that of software engineer, and more and more people are learning how to code (if you need any motivation, the CEO of Instagram that got bought by Facebook for $1 billion was a marketing guy by day, and learnt how to code by night). With the explosion of mobile technology and applications, there is a lot of demand for software engineers and developers. If that is your kind of thing, or you know anyone interested in computers, direct them to codeacademy.com or udcaity.com. You could be setting someone up for life.
In closing, there is a great book I’d like to recommend: it is called ‘A whole new mind’ by Daniel Pink. It is a guide to how, by using more of the gifts that make us human, we can continue to be relevant even in a time that technology is making what seems like pure magic, no more than a flipped switch or a keystroke away.
I’d like to hear from you; do you agree or disagree with me? Please use the comment box and share your thoughts.