Ms ZiYou Robots

So the future. In particular the future of work. What does it hold? How are we all expecting society to evolve? Join me in this thought experiment as I ponder the future.

Thought Experiment – The future of work

Every few months some fellow bloggers propose a thought experiment hosted by The Saving Ninja.

There is a statement or question posed, and every blogger writes their own thoughts. The posts are all published together and linked.

Today’s Thought Experiment was proposed by Sonia from Money For The Modern Girl and it’s a great choice.

I recently read a statistic that 85% of the jobs there will be in 2030 have not yet been created. What do you think these jobs are, and which ones will no longer exist? And what does this mean for education? What will offices look like in 11 years? Will people continue to commute to a physical office or will remote work and digital nomadism take over? Finally, how do you think this will affect the overall global economic balance?

Read the other entries here:

2030 seems so close

F*ck, am I getting old now? While I was younger the millennium seemed light-years away. But as for today to 2030, that just doesn’t feel too far away. At my rapidly advancing years, I will be 49 in the year 2030 – and 49 is not old. It is only 11 years.

How many street lighters or chimney sweeps do you know?

So while 2030 seems close in the future, I’m brought back to think of the past. There are definitely some jobs that we know about in 2019, that do not exist today.

We have heard about them in the past, know roughly the role description and seen them in films. So we can also easily articulate why most of these no longer exist. We all understand that not many have a coal fire anymore and the street lights are automatically controlled and electric. Improving technology resulted in us not needing people to carry out these jobs anymore.

How about coal miners or telephone operators?

And moving on a few decades we have some roles which have dwindled in numbers much more recently. People know older family members that had these roles, or some of the few people that are still employed in these roles. And these roles have declined for similar reasons and improvements in our way of life. Yet they are also a cautionary tale of what happens when a whole industry declines. The knock-on impact on people and communities can be devasting. And take decades to show any sign of improvement.

Climate Change impact on the future of work

As the earth warms and warms, people and society as a whole are getting concerned about our impact on the environment. More and more people are thinking about their carbon footprint and actively making choices to reduce it. This has resulted in a change in consumer behaviour already, with more predicted in the future.

Human nature doesn’t really change

One thing that never seems to change is human nature and individualism. While our society and social structures change and evolve with our standard of living, our human personalities are not so malleable. Humans will still be very complex, emotive being with a complex set of needs and interdependencies on each other.

Moreover, if some roles are made redundant by changes in the world we need a plan to help people evolve. We need plans to help train future generations to be more flexible automatically. And plans to retrain those workers whose roles end up disappearing. In summary, learning from our mistakes in the past, we need to proactively help people and ensure certain areas of the country do not end up behind.

Technology however does change

The last 20 years have certainly shown us the evolution of technology. In particular how new items (say hello to the smartphone) can become essential in everyday life in a short time period. I grew up without mobiles or the internet, yet they are seen as essential everyday items today. This is the one area where I don’t think many people will disagree. In conclusion, technological change is coming at a ferocious pace.

There will be winners and losers

As with all changes, there will be clear winners. Both the innovators who made new products that became popular and those early adopters who guessed right.  These people will excel in the future world and keep a few steps ahead of the pack.

And speaking of the pack, the majority of people will do fine. Sure there will be change, and people will have to adapt, but overall life will continue much the same.  The workforce is becoming more and more populated by digital natives, who will take these things in their strides much more than us oldies.

My actual predictions – the future of work

All jobs that involve repetitive actions will be gradually automated and automated. Until only the parts a computer cannot do are left. Some of the jobs that will disappear have already been earmarked and can easily be seen. Till operators, warehouse workers, accounting technicians, travel agents, typists are safe bets to be significantly reduced in numbers by 2030.

What will replace them? I think these new jobs will come in three main spheres.

  • More complex computing roles, to control the automation in our lives.
  • Personal services that require humans with empathy.
  • Climate-related jobs as we as a society take more action on global warming.

More remote working will be the norm

As the world aims to reduce emissions, and companies want to cut costs, it will become the norm to work at home. Unnecessary travel for work will reduce, and tools to work collaboratively will grow and grow. Introverts of the world will rejoice, and extroverts will congregate in local cafes and coworking spaces.

As will more freelancing

In 2030, I predict more professionals will be freelancing. The idea of a job for life is already long gone. Moreover, the idea of a permanent contract commitment will start to appeal to fewer employees and employers. Employees with skills to market and in search of more variety and control will be drawn to step out on their own and freelancing.

And the 4 day week may become a reality

My personal preference would be for the 4 day work week to become a reality. However, despite being proposed 100 years ago, no real strides have been made in its implementation. A few political parties have played with the idea and it’s had a trial run or two without success.

But the next level of automation and the corresponding industrial revolution seems like the ideal bedfellow for this idea. Universal income will come up and be dismissed, with the 4-day working week becoming a compromise solution more people can get behind.

In summary

Although not all my predictions will come true, I’m sure some will.

Finally, as someone who really doesn’t plan on being working for money in 10 years, it has been an interesting exercise. I feel quite detached from the work part of it, yet care deeply about how our society (of which work is part) develops in the 21st century.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • What do you think about the future of work?
  • Do you think the 4 day week

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

16 comments on “The future of work

  1. Already working a four day week, and I expect I’ll be working even less by 2030.

    As society ages, I think there’ll be more social care jobs available and much greater demand! Maybe they’ll start being better paid to recognise their true worth to society. I wonder if that’ll be true of emotional work in general.

    If climate change bites and an increasingly stiff frequent flyer levy is applied, perhaps there will be fewer flights and associated staff? Around 50% of the UK population don’t fly at all. There is a small group who do a massive amount of flying.

    I think we’ll increasingly see commuting to an office as archaic as dust covered men leaving a coal mine. But maybe not by 2030. Some companies have even become more central office centric in the last few years.

    Will we see every profession being truly split between the sexes? I doubt it, but perhaps there will be further progression towards more men taking on traditionally female roles like caring, and more women doing dangerous and physically arduous roles like mining? Hopefully, there’ll be a levelling of remuneration in sports prize money and the arts between the genders – due in part to more leisure time resulting in more watchers of female football etc.

    Further gigification of the economy – perhaps supported by a universal benefit. Or will people still be talking about it?

    Productivity will continue to fall partly in recognition of the fragility and complexity of the technological infrastructure supporting what we do combined with digital distractions nibbling away at our sleep and waking hours.

    1. Thanks for your detailed response greencat – I so agree social care and emotional support need to be much more highly valued in the future. Not to mention the arts and sports need much more balance in remuneration and those with disposable income and leisure time to enjoy them.

  2. The 4 day work week would be a superb way to increase the work life balance of the nation, everyone will become a little bit happier in one fell swoop! Although it would definitely be hard to implement on the corporate side.

    I hadn’t thought about the potential up side of remote work with regards to reducing carbon emissions. It seems remote working has a positive effect on all parties involved! No more begrudging commutes 🙂

    We should all be trying as much as we can to reduce carbon emissions, although I have a lot of faith that Science will be able to reverse the environmental damages that we’ve caused in the future, especially with the creation of super-AI.

    1. Hi SavingNinja – good to see you are a fellow advocate for the 4 day week and remote working!

      With all the correct resources I’m pretty sure science could reverse the damages, trouble is it will not be prioritised in time.

  3. Definitely agree on WAH becoming more normal and would love a 4 day workweek.

    But I’m fairly pessimistic on the future of human work, personally. I definitely agree that automation is coming but I don’t think we’re particularly well prepared to create new jobs to replace them, and certainly not at the scale required. That is to say, if automated cars come and wipe out truck drivers, taxi drivers, and uber drivers en masse, there will very likely be a need for more technicians to repair and maintain these vehicles, but nowhere near as many as the jobs that were displaced.

    I think the big hurt is coming soon. Maybe I’m just pessimistic. More thoughts here.

    1. Hi DBF – with seeing the worst of our leaders across the world lately, and the return of strongman culture I agree the future looks pessimistic. But if we could all have a bit of New Zealand and a positive more caring future could prioritise all the right things and ensure everyone gets the benefits from automation.

  4. Automation is great, but robots don’t pay taxes.

    Be great to see how big FI movement will be in 11 years and impact on career choices / working practices.

    Interesting times ahead.

    1. Hi TravelProf – that made me laugh that robots don’t pay taxes! But their owners pay corp tax, does that not count?

      And yeah – the FI movement in 11 years will be very interesting – as presumably by then we’ll have weathered a big crash. How will it impact FI?

  5. Hi Ms ZiYou, another thought-provoking post… For what it’s worth, I too am not optimistic that the world of work will change in positive ways in the future. I recently heard on CNN that in the US, the most common job among men is driving (trucks or cars). Even if self-driving cars are a ways away, I just don’t see how so many people will find well-paying, no skills-required alternatives. Providing care for older folks doesn’t seem to be popular with that group (and in any case, is very poorly paid, as you noted).

    That said, it’s true that the ways the Internet and smartphone have changed our lives (mostly for the better, I’d argue) would have been unthinkable even 15 years ago. So I hope something similar can happen to the world of work.

    1. Hi FF –

      Yes, I think we are going to have to think out of the box with retraining people whose roles are no longer needed. And make sure we raise youngsters to be more used to change and equipped to evolve with automation progress and the changing jobs market.

  6. I seriously doubt we’ll ever get 4 days work week here in the US. Productivity improved so much already over the last 50 years, but we are working more than ever today. Management will invent jobs, tasks, or something to make you look busy. The level of BS work will rise to an unforeseen level. Lots of people will be super busy doing nothing useful. 🙂

  7. I’ve long thought the four day week is the way to go. A day to get all your necessary jobs done. Get your house cleaned, all those appointments slotted in, admin etc done. Then you’ve still got two days for studying, exercising, meeting friends, going places, whatever you fancy really.

  8. If I Google ‘what jobs are being replaced by robots’, my job (or something very close to my job) is on the list. I quite like the idea of an ‘R2D2’ doing what I do (it will probably swear less!)

    However, I can’t see this happening before I FIRE so I’m not overly concerned.

    There will always be new jobs, if there is a market for such services and skills, just as jobs die off when those goods/services are no longer required or can be achieved in a more cost effective way, eg robots. The hard part of the equation is the retraining and support of people caught in the cusp of when a job becomes redundant.

    It’ll be interesting to see what new jobs are created in the future – I can say that when I was a kid, I never thought there’d be people working as nail technicians or in pet salons.

    And finally, whenever there’s a bank holiday, I’m reminded of how much I’d love a 4-day week!

  9. Guessing the future is notoriously difficult. One favourite films back to the future 2 predictions for 2015 flying cars and hoverboards. Although they got some things right.

    I do think 4 days is the way to go. However the work still needs doing and reality can be trickier than theory. I’ve dropped to 4 days myself but means I’m super busy when in. The work doesn’t go away it just has to be packed into 4 days or delegated to others which can garner resentment.

    I think jobs will still be there, just adapt. I think something uk economy is good at is evolving into other work. We are quite flexible workforce as we’ve changed so much over last 50 years.

  10. My job is completely digital. My company doesn’t even have a central office and I thibk more companies will head that route as telecommunications have reached the point that it’s pretty feasible. It’s a huge expense saver to not have to rent and maintain an office building, and it creates a lot of loyalty I thibk in the employees.

    Not sure what 2030 will look like but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

  11. As someone interested in history, this is spot on, engaging, funny, and SO TRUE. Great piece. P.S. I think if we kept everything the same but had operators still around for some reason, it would be highly entertaining!

What do you think?