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The Review

Automation and AI- is your job next?


As new technology makes the world smarter, gadgets and apps continue to optimize our personal and professional lives. As more and more intelligent machines enter the workplace, many are divided over the effects of increasing automation- the replacement of workers with technology and computerization.

With 42 per cent of jobs being considered at high risk and 60 per cent of post-secondary students in programs that will soon become obsolete

The DMZ brought together some leading minds to discuss the economic and social implications of automation. The fifth installment of #DMZSession titled Robot Revolution included panelists Sean Mullin, the executive director of the Brookfield Institute, Krista Jones, head of work and learning at MaRS Discovery District, and Kavaskar Thiya, the founder of Nikola Labs. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Stephanie Walsh, an associate professor at Toronto Metropolitan University who’s currently leading a research consortium on robotics and autism spectrum disorder.

Here’s what you missed:

The societal impacts of automation are real

Krista: “I see the inevitability of software automation occurring in all industries around the world. I don’t see an area that’s not being impacted in the short term… I get most concerned as a citizen about those who don’t have access to incremental training or who aren’t able to keep up with the devices that we’re using. I see us creating a wider divide between the haves and the have-nots.”

Sean: “42 per cent of jobs are at high risk of being automated over the next 20 years… Low levels of university attainment, for example, are correlated with these high-risk jobs. There are already less high paying jobs and they tend to be much more routine oriented.”

There’s lots we can do to prepare ourselve

Sean: “If you look at the types of competencies that are going to promote success in the workforce under these types of changes, they’re things like creativity, critical thinking, judgment, cognitive ability, and the ability to interact with people. We’re going to need to create a package of things like a strong social safety net, early retirements, and rapid retraining.”

Kavaskar: “Look into programming as a new skill to double up on. I think it’s crucial for everyone to learn some form of programming, so you understand artificial intelligence better.”

Automation is critical for entrepreneurs

Krista: “Any success with an entrepreneur has to be twofold: It has to actually solve a problem for the customer that it’s solving for and it has to be able to create a workplace that makes money… And automation is essential for both. We as people have fundamentally changed and there’s just an expectation that products and services we use … that has an element of automation built in.”

The onus is on us to educate ourselves and be ready

Kavaskar: “You don’t have to depend on a school and you don’t have to wait for curriculum to catch up. You can go online and learn anything you want on YouTube. We definitely have to put it on ourselves to be ready for [imminent changes in] the workforce.”

Krista: “This transition has to be owned in the next 10 to 15 years by the individual, because we won’t be able to change bureaucratic systems fast enough to keep up with the change that’s happening in the world.”

Sean: “Where I think institutions, like universities and others, will have to look back at things that are actually going to be intel to you from the effect of automation, and that’s hands-on experience, creativity, experiential learning and problem solving.”

How do we protect ourselves from automation?

Sean: “ Going forward, we have to collectively take a look at our social safety nets specifically and also the social fabrics of how we perceive work and jobs in the future.”

Krista: “I’m going to take it to a more human level. Once a month, take somebody who is afraid of technology and automation, talk to them, make them comfortable about it. Help bridge that gap because there’s a large percentage of people who are terrified of change.”

Kavaskar: “Education and awareness. Media has a big role to play in teaching people what machine learning is and what artificial intelligence is.”