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History of mankind has been a history of automation. Craving for convenience, huge efforts went into automation from the days of the wheel to the onset of robots making giant leaps and artificial intelligence. At every watershed moment in history, at least in recent times, automation has raised the scare of jobs being lost. Lucky, layoffs of the kind imagined never happened & newer jobs took the place of older ones. The job equilibrium was maintained, unemployment levels remaining manageable, if compared with the automation waves impacting jobs in the days to come.

Jobs apart, the information, data, expertise & decision making remained with human beings. What we understood of automation with industrialization & the last one of paper, analog to digital will pale into insignificance, if only we develop the capability to experience the sweeping changes happening all around. It has never happened in the history of mankind. The digital revolution is not creating jobs now, it’s eating it. How many should have been created to bring this humungous social media revolution?

Jobs not created because of automation is also in a way jobs lost. Economic value gets added with no commensurate jobs. High end banking & financial services happen with algorithms or software tweaking of the current utilities. Very little of human effort is required & globally services can be upgraded in a jiffy. This is the age we are in. Around 370 millions will need a occupation change globally, if they are not be thrown out by machines completely. Can’t be wished away, the question is when.

A recent study of PWC tries to understand the unfolding automation. It will not be straightforward. The global consulting firm defines three separate waves of automation: “the algorithm wave ( automation of simple computational tasks); the augmentation wave (automation of repeatable tasks) and the autonomy wave (problem solving in dynamic real-world situations).” An extremely complex scenario, independent & simultaneous; different impact – industry wise, geography wise, age wise & even gender wise unfolding globally.


Sanjay Sahay

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