That the working world is going through a phase of great change is a certainty. What we still cannot predict is what workers’ lives will really be like in 10-20-50 years’ time.
Will office work still exist or will automation completely replace human presence?
This is the question that many people are asking because the fate of many workers depends on the answer.
A small elite of people is ready to ride the wave of change. In fact, they are developing sophisticated systems and putting all the necessary resources into technology so that complete automation is a reality in favour of those who design and build it.
An even smaller elite is instead studying the phenomenon and formulating theories about what will happen in the future.
Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli historian and university professor, in an interview given to the Sunday Times in August 2016, pointed out that a possible future development is to entrust total control of all work activities to algorithms.
Why will we be led to a complete reliance on algorithms according to Harari?
The decision making process of an algorithm can be more precise than the human one, especially if formulated from all the information an individual can have.
Considering that the great technological giants, thanks to their profiling systems, are in fact coming to a more and more complete knowledge of the information that concerns us, an algorithm, starting from them, will know how to choose just like a human.
This technological invasion will lead to the spread of techno-religion, that is the collective belief that technology will be in our interest forever.
What will happen then to the working world in this scenario?
Work as a concept will therefore presumably be all automated because it is convenient or because the turning point towards evolution seems to have already got out of hand.
In this sense, it is interesting to read some data that tells us how it is mistakenly thought that automation will only concern sectors that produce goods. One interesting statistic concerns Goldman Sachs and highlights two data:
– the first is that in 2000 there were 600 traders in the negotiations, whereas today there are only two people doing this activity;
– the second says that since four traders can be replaced by a computer engineer, at Goldman Sachs about 9,000 people, or a third of the staff, are computer engineers.
But what will our company be like when office work has completely given way to automation?
According to Harari, the company could split in two. The first is a very small elite of people (called the cognitive elite) that will have the best decision-making algorithms and a large mass of billions of people, made up of the so-called useless classes, i.e. the social class of the useless who have no work and no role in society.
Except for a few, this scenario may seem disturbing.
If, in fact, socially we should open a debate on the ethics of technology on a personal level, it is necessary to prepare an action plan to stay in the world of work.
It is certainly not easy to provide a solution. But the more useful and unique you become in the labour market, the more you will have some hope of professionally surviving the unstoppable process of automation.