As Machines Get Smarter, How Will the Way We Live and Work Change? Part 2: Shifting Human–Machine Dynamics

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Every day, we see new examples of how technology is reshaping the dynamics of human–machine partnerships at work and at home. Some of the changes we can already see include everything from smart watches to drones to self-driving cars.
How will the next wave of technology disrupt our lives and change the nature of human and machine partnerships, and how quickly will this disruption happen? Although no one knows the exact path this latest round of innovation will take, Dell Technologies has partnered with Institute for the Future (IFTF) to explore how these trends are likely to take shape in their new report, The Next Era of Human–Machine Partnerships: Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society & Work in 2030 . In the first post in this two-part series, I discussed the emerging technologies that will underpin these changes. In this second installment, I examine how these technologies are likely to reshape human–machine dynamics and how we can start preparing for them.

What will the brave new world of 2030 look like? The Dell/IFTF study highlights the following key shifts in human–machine relationships:

  • People become digital conductors. We already use apps for many tasks, from finding jobs to hailing rides. Personal assistants—or chatbots—help us turn off the lights, monitor home security and order products online. As technology helps us to orchestrate more activities and tasks, more of us will become “digital conductors,” using more personalized apps to predict, meet and respond to more of our needs. Expect solutions to help us monitor and care for elderly relatives, understand the role our emotions play in making a decision and help us to run errands. We’ll “conduct” these apps through connected devices. In the future, machines will become extensions of ourselves. Honor, for instance, has developed a platform to match elderly patients with doctors and care professionals as well as coordinate meals, transportation, housekeeping and companionship. OhmniLabs is working on an affordable telepresence home robot. With one click of a button, a person can be in the same room as his/her family, friends and colleagues without being physically present.
  • Work chases people. There’s little doubt that machines will replace humans in many jobs: PwC predicts that robots could take over 38% of U.S. jobs in the next 15 years. However, IFTF authors contend that new jobs will replace them. The percentage of “gig” or contract workers will grow to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. Instead of workers looking for jobs, organizations will compete for the best talent for specific jobs, using solutions such as reputation engines, data visualization and analytics to automate the process. Companies will also change the way they work, adopting more capable solutions that streamline collaboration across geographies and time zones. Glowork, the first women’s employment organization in the Middle East, has launched a platform that links female jobseekers with employers. So far, it has put more than 3,000 women in the workplace and located work-from-home jobs for 500 women. By leveraging big data, employers can search for candidates based on different search criteria.
  • In-the-moment learning becomes the norm. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that today’s learners will have 8 to 10 jobs by the time they are 38, and IFTF estimates that 85% of the jobs they’ll be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. This makes the ability to learn new skills a worker’s most valuable asset. But how will people—especially the growing population of gig workers—learn new skills? Probably not through traditional HR and training processes. Instead, they’ll need to do more learning on the fly, with “in-the-moment” learning becoming the norm by 2030. New technologies such as AR and VR will facilitate this trend, guiding, for example, a new field service technician through an HVAC repair. DAQRI, which is based in Los Angeles, is using AR devices to display digital work instructions in workers’ physical environment, helping them to complete tasks more efficiently.

Technology: The Fabric of Our Future Lives

No one knows exactly how these trends will unfold; and while some people are excited about them, others are uneasy about what may happen. Will machines steal jobs from people and lead to unemployment? Will bad guys create evil robots like the Terminator in the movie of the same name and Ava in Ex Machina?

But whether we’re ready or not, it’s safe to assume that technology will continue to play a bigger role in our business and personal lives. Think about it: the internet was a novelty 20 years ago, and “dumb” phones outsold smartphones until 2013. Now, both are ubiquitous. The next round of technological change is likely to be as inevitable and pervasive, so the best route is to start preparing for it by asking critical questions, such as the following:

  • How can we, as individuals, get smarter and keep learning?
  • What skills are most likely to be automated?
  • What human skills will have the most value?
  • How can we use new technologies as tools to accomplish goals, for our businesses and ourselves?
  • How can we build people skills and digital infrastructure for the future?

Recognize that what seems disruptive today will become part of our individual and business fabric tomorrow. By thinking proactively about the next level of human and machine interactions in the workplace now, we will be much better positioned to reap the benefits in the future.

You can read the full Dell/IFTF report  for more food for thought and take the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Survey to help assess your organization’s readiness for the future. 

This is the second post in a two-part series sponsored by Dell. The first post examines the emerging technologies that will underpin changes in human–machine dynamics.