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Work 2.0 – technology is upgrading our jobs

Technological progress tends to eliminate human error. Everything can be automated – argues Christopher Steiner in the book titled: „Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World”. People desperately want to know whether technology and machines are going to take work away from them – but this question should be reversed. Who will work in the Digital Age, the world of Work 2.0?

In 1811, when Ned Ludd destroyed knitting frames, workers were convinced that machines would take their work away from them. However, it turned out that there was more than enough work, both for machines and for people. Economists reassured that workplaces would be created over and over – and so has it been for the next 200 years. The great Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter understood changes as creative destruction. According to his beliefs innovation does not mean that the economy should return to the same initial level.

Many people seem to think that automation is something from the distant future, meanwhile this process is gaining incredible momentum right before our eyes. Supermarkets are a good example, where staff are being traded in wholesale for the so-called self-service checkouts. Obviously this is done to reduce costs. Machines are still far from perfect, but we can forecast them to be increasingly reliable and supermarkets are in for large savings thanks to them.

If some unexpected changes don’t take place, then all points to the further robotisation and informationalisation of our entire space in which we operate. Experts from the International Federation of Robotics reckon that 2014 will be equally fruitful for robotics as its predecessor. Computers are everywhere right now. Simple business processes are increasingly automated, with IT specialists and programmers working in nearly all large companies. In the information and communication technology (ICT) sector changes are occurring fast enough to surprise analysts of these sectors. Automation and robotics are becoming the as-of-yet undiscovered factor transforming our society – but is this transformation for the better? Robots and algorithms are becoming better at building cars, writing articles, translating. There was a time when these tasks were done by humans. So how will we, humans, make money for a living? The answer to this question lies in the list of work which computers can do. Because if a machine can do something, it is just a matter of time before it will be doing it cheaper than a human. „Dancing with Robots”, a report published by the American think tank Third Way, sheds light on the problem of “disappearing” jobs. The authors of the report find that two conditions have to be met for a task to be done by a computer. First, the information condition: the information necessary to conduct the task has to be gathered in a form understandable to a machine. Second, the processing condition: the process of information processing necessary for executing the task in question has to be possible to write down in a set of rules. The first condition is a question of advanced interface (sight, hearing), the second is a question of information processing – a process similar to human thinking. But can and will machines think like us?

If some unexpected changes don’t take place, then all points to the further robotisation and informationalisation of our entire space in which we operate. Experts from the International Federation of Robotics reckon that 2014 will be equally fruitful for robotics as its predecessor. Computers are everywhere right now. Simple business processes are increasingly automated, with IT specialists and programmers working in nearly all large companies. In the information and communication technology (ICT) sector changes are occurring fast enough to surprise analysts of these sectors. Automation and robotics are becoming the as-of-yet undiscovered factor transforming our society – but is this transformation for the better? Robots and algorithms are becoming better at building cars, writing articles, translating. There was a time when these tasks were done by humans. So how will we, humans, make money for a living? The answer to this question lies in the list of work which computers can do. Because if a machine can do something, it is just a matter of time before it will be doing it cheaper than a human. „Dancing with Robots”, a report published by the American think tank Third Way, sheds light on the problem of “disappearing” jobs. The authors of the report find that two conditions have to be met for a task to be done by a computer. First, the information condition: the information necessary to conduct the task has to be gathered in a form understandable to a machine. Second, the processing condition: the process of information processing necessary for executing the task in question has to be possible to write down in a set of rules. The first condition is a question of advanced interface (sight, hearing), the second is a question of information processing – a process similar to human thinking. But can and will machines think like us?

Read more in “The Observer” 3/2013

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