more than mere digital transformation

Is the automation of what has traditionally been human work inevitable?

I know what you’re thinking – there’s some things that robots can do well, but there’s a lot of things that they can’t, and it will be a long, long time before they can match or outperform humans in these tasks. Construction, food preparation, agriculture, mining, manufacturing… while many of these jobs can be automated, my job absolutely cannot be taken by a robot. I’m safe.

Sorry, but that argument is deeply flawed. Thanks to accounting conventions and tax laws dating back centuries, a robot doesn’t need to be better – or more efficient – than a human being at a task to make a business more profitable. It just needs to be 34% as good, or 11% as good, depending on that business’s accounting and amortization policies. —Hatcher Blog

It seems that our bookkeeping systems, developed hundreds of years ago, are the main culprit in edging out human labour in favour of technological capital. John Sharp, Partner at Hatcher, thinks part of the solution is a guaranteed universal income. I agree that this is part of it, but we also need to radically change our education and training systems. This cannot come soon enough, as 43% of senior executives see the “robotic automation of processes” as a high priority over the next two years. As difficult as it has been to earn a decent wage, in spite of rising productivity for the past several decades, it seems it will get even tougher.

“In other words, the problem is not that Capital lacks a say in education, but that corporations and the 0.1% are reaping all the rewards and need to explain why. Too often, this explanation comes in the form of the zombie idea of a ‘skills gap’, which persists though it keeps being debunked. What else are CEOs going to say – and the skills gap is almost always based on an opinion survey – when they are asked to explain stagnating wages?” —A Field Guide to Jobs that Don’t Exist


These indicators show that many of our assumptions, such as the need for governments to create new jobs, are wrong. We need to rethink the nature of work, jobs, employment, accounting, taxation, and pretty well everything else we brought from the Market Economy. The Network Economy, and the digitization of all information, needs new models. We have to start talking about this seriously. What does this mean for your job, your industry, and your community? This is the type of disruption that will change society. This is much more than mere digital transformation of the current workplace. It’s up to globally connected citizens to create the next economy that values human talent: curiosity, creativity, empathy, passion, and humour. The alternative is rather depressing.

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