Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists

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The ever increasing computing power replacing jobs by the thousands

Tuesday 24 September 2013

When it comes to 'anti-technology' thinking, a term often thrown disparagingly at people is 'Luddite'. Luddites were indeed anti-tech BUT contrary to modern day thinking, they had a particular dislike for technology that would put people out of work. If technology helped keep people employed or created more jobs they were all for it. Which brings me to current computing technology and in particular, the potential long-tail impacts on cities and towns

A recent Oxford University study looking at computing's impact on job markets, goes a step further than similar studies. Whereas many others talk about future potential for job replacement as tchnology improves, the Oxford research suggests that almost half of all jobs could ALREADY be replaced. We've all heard about software that can in minutes find case law that it takes a phalanx of lawyers to do in hours or days. We know that surgery can be done remotely and is now on the cusp of full robotics without human intervention, and that autonomous vehicles are likely to see truck, bus and taxi drivers released from their roles.

Which makes for some interesting planning conundrums for cities and towns. If half the workforce no longer needs to communte, or is no longer required at all, what happens for transport planning? If computing advances render whole swathes of people redundant, what sort of social support services are needed to deal with the influx of people with time on their hands?

And are we, as Arthur C Clarke summised in his book 'A View from Serendip' actually headed to total UNemployment?

City planners, policy makers and more need to begin to take a serious and in-depth look at what it means to have half of all jobs replaced by a computer, and the potential impact that has on their cities and neighbourhoods. It doesn't look like technology is going away any time soon. What would those Luddites say? 


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