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What the TED Experts Say About Automation in the Workplace

Automation, and artificial intelligence, are undoubtedly changing the way we work. They’re even restructuring the actual jobs offered. According to the TED experts, it’s just the beginning of a new wave of workforce.

David Autor – Will automation take away all our jobs?

Will automation take away all our jobs? David Autor discusses the fear of advances in technology removing the need for human labour. This fear is not a new one, going back to a time well before ATMs or self-check out. But as Autor shows, the percentage of adult Americans participating in the workforce is higher than it was 50 or even 100 years ago. He asks the question if machines are making human labour obsolete, “why are there so many jobs?” There is a general principle that much of our human work requires an integration of skills. In the face of automation, our human work will increase in economic value.

Andrew McAfee – What will future jobs look like?

Andrew McAfee wants you to look to the future, and the changes taking place as a result of increased automation. He believes that automation will free us from drudgery. Where previously a team of workers were required to stack shelves, a machine can now do the same thing. Printing an object can now be almost as easy as printing a resume. McAfee believes that with automation taking over these basic processes, it leaves hobbyists and artists free to create and innovate, moving our society forward into abundance. He explains that machine automation is causing problems for the working class, but as we go forwards, we can change this.

Avinash Meetoo – Jobs of the future and how we can prepare for them

Avinash Meetoo remembers his childhood, and how progress has replaced the women he used to see in fields. Machines now collect food in the place of them. So many of the things we buy are created by robots. Many processes that used to be human directed have been converted to factories and machines. Meetoo says the value we place in jobs will change. Employers are now looking for different skills. What we need to be able to do is retrain to remain relevant in the changing workplace.

Pablos Holman – How to become relevant when a robot takes your job

Pablos Holman works at Intellectual Ventures lab. Him and his team of scientists look at world problems and come up with technological solutions. They do everything from killing mosquitos to keeping vaccines cold. “Robots are coming,” he says, taking menial repetitive jobs and doing it better than we can. Often what we are doing is using technology to fulfill our needs. Holman thinks, to an extent, technology can only help us so far. The rest, we have to do for ourselves.

Behrokh Khoshnevis

One of the focuses on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is shelter. Nearly 1 billion people in the world live in makeshift housing or slums. Behrokh Khoshnevis discusses the problem of conventional construction. They are slow and inefficient. Enter contour crafting. Like jobs in factories, contour crafting removes the expense, hazard, and other issues associated with building shelter, hopefully expanding opportunities for displaced and homeless people in the future.

Andrew McAfee – Are droids taking our jobs?

Are the droids taking our jobs? What the question is really asking, is, “will I still be able to earn a living in the wake of new technology?” Andrew McAfee finds that there are few people working at the end of a decade than there were at the beginning. He takes a negative standpoint on the future of general knowledge work, making it look like maybe we may have a problem. But then he steps back, taking a look across the entirety of human history, allowing us a glimpse at the bigger picture, and how we may not be so adversely affected after all.


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