Rise of the Robots?

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Could your job be taken over by a robot? Do you have a contingency plan in place, if so?

No, this is not the basis for a Hollywood screenplay or a dystopian novel. Rather, these are key questions being grappled with by leading economists and governments, and we at Zahra have been doing our research: keen to prepare ourselves for the impending robot invasion.

(Preparing ourselves for the impending zombie invasion is the subject of our next blog post.)

The good news for those of us in the ‘ideas’ sector is that creativity and relationship-building remain excellent ways to future-proof your job, although the jury is still out on how long that may last.

In 2015, Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane stated that 80 million US and 15 million UK jobs might be taken over by robots. Then in January of this year, a McKinsey & Company study found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerized.

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Say, what?

Yes, those were the actual figures. However, not all jobs are created equally. In 2013, a study by Oxford University academics called The Future of Employment examined 702 common occupations and found that some – telemarketers, tax preparers and sports referees – are at more risk of automation than others because these jobs tend to involve more routine, repetitive or predictable tasks.

According to the study, jobs least at risk of automation included recreational therapists, occupational therapists and certain creative jobs such as pattern makers, make-up artists and (yay for us!) marketing managers.

This is backed up by the author and futurist Martin Ford, who has written Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless FutureHe divides the most future-proof sectors into three categories: creative; relationship building; and unpredictable.

The first are jobs that thrive on “genuine creativity such as being an artist, being a scientist, [or] developing a new business strategy”. Chiming in with the Oxford study, he categorizes the second as those involving complex human interaction and relationship building, such as nursing or business roles that require strong relationships with clients. The third pillar focuses on jobs that remain unpredictable, such as tradesmen involved in emergency call-outs.

All of this is good news for content marketers such as Zahra, because creativity and client focus are the mainstays of what we do (not to mention the occasional emergency call-out to clients when required!).

More optimistic futurists believe that, far from killing jobs, technology will create entirely new businesses and occupations, with the rise of formats such as 3-D printing and gene-based therapies potentially contributing to this.

Experts do agree, however, that over the coming decades, the world of work is going to change radically, with people having to cope with, if not unemployment, certainly a redeployment of skills. It could even be the case that instead of one big job, people have six or seven smaller ones.

You have been warned, people!

[Note: This blog post was inspired by a recent article in The Guardian about the future of jobs.]

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