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Read Time: 3 Minutes 09.23.2016 Leadership

Will Your Job Survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

“The world is changing.” Um, duh!

The entire Golden Spiral team knows I despise qualifying language that talks about “today’s changing world.” In fact, I have pretty much outlawed any use of the word “today” at Golden Spiral because it is used in so many tired cliches (especially regarding technology). I am determined to find more creative ways to make urgent assertions.

The truth is, change happens so fast and so regularly that we are numb to it. However, our inoculation to the idea of change can be dangerous. When change begins to fundamentally alter the way we exist, our “frog in the kettle” desensitization can end up cooking us. That will certainly be the case for those who are blindsided by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

For those leading the tech evolution around the Internet of Things (IOT), micromanufacturing and cyber-physical systems (CPS), discussion about the Fourth Industrial Revolution is standard operating procedure.

For the rest of humanity, it’s time to tune in to the change that’s happening around us. It’s a boot that is getting ready to kick a lot of butts in the next few years, so its is worthwhile and necessary to begin to understand — or, better yet, capitalize on — the sweeping scope of impending change.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

To understand the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must first review the three that came before it. The First Industrial Revolution revolved around the application of steam power and its ability to increase horsepower and make more happen faster. The second revolved around the easy availability of electricity to power manufacturing. The third leveraged electronics and information technology to further streamline and mechanize production.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the one we’re facing now, represents the amalgamation of physical, digital, and biological tech that is totally changing our definitions of efficiency and has profoundly transformed how we are able to process, order and transmit information and apply it in various forms to our world.

How Will It Affect Jobs?

The idea of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” came into clearer focus early this year at the World Economic Forum (WEF). There was plenty of information shared in that context but the stat that got the most headline love over the last several months was that, “Technology in various forms will sunset more than 5 million jobs between now and 2020.” And that is just what is able to be responsibly estimated in the short term. Other estimates report that over 47% of US jobs could be displaced by automation.

If you are sitting comfortably in a white-collar career, you might be thinking, “Well, that won’t be me!” But don't just assume you are safe, especially if your work involves any form of step and repeat tasks or repetitive examination or evaluation. Here is the projected breakdown of jobs that are on the chopping block over the next four years:

Jobs That Will Be Lost Between Now and 2020

  • 4,759,000 Clerical/Process Administration
  • 1,609,000 Manufacturing and Production
  • 497,000 Construction and Mining
  • 151,000 Sports and Creative Industries
  • 109,000 Lawyers
  • 40,000 Mechanics/Maintenance

Jobs That Will Be Created Between Now and 2020

  • 492,000 Banking, Accounting, Insurance
  • 416,000 Management
  • 405,000 IT/data Analysis
  • 339,000 Architecture and Engineering
  • 303,000 Sales
  • 66,000 Teaching and Training

The WEF Jobs Report is full of epic language such as, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

The reason that their language is so “ultimate” is that the changes that technology will enable don’t only affect business; they also intersect intimately with our humanity.

Cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and various forms of human augmentation and amplification will knit man and machine together in tighter synchronicity than ever. As a result, the power and scope of our ability will change our concept of production and dramatically alter the skill set necessary to excel.

How Can I Be Ready?

The WEF reports that, by 2020, over a third of the fundamental abilities required for most jobs will be comprised of skills that are not considered crucial in our current environment.

That is an unprecedented pace of transformation. But in the age of climate change, strange epidemics, sustainable energy concerns, stranger-than-fiction politics and other brobdingnagian issues, the effect of technological change on jobs is likely to be dwarfed in the mainstream conversation. At least — for now.

So what can you do to prepare? The first step is to jump out of the kettle and be a student of the changes taking place. a great place to start is reading the WEF Future of Jobs Report. If you want a glimpse past 2020 consider what Futurist Thomas Frey has to say about the next 15 years. It’s the end of the world as we know it.

John Farkas

John Farkas

CEO/Storyteller John founded Golden Spiral to help companies uncover a market-focused story that will transform the way people see their world.