I attended a U of A sponsored alumni event last night entitled “The Future of Work”. It was hosted at the newly restored old Calgary Science Center.
Economist Todd Hirsch from the Alberta Treasury Branch gave the talk with a power point presentation. This well spoken gentleman referenced topics which many of us maybe have thought about but haven’t really worked through logistically in terms of how exactly advancing technology will impact our working lives.
Todd suggests that advancing technology is going to in fact do away with certain job functions. His example illustrated the chronology of events required to fill a prescription for the elderly. He demonstrated that in Canada today it takes six working people contacts for an elder to have their prescription filled from the time he walks into a doctor’s office until the time medicine is dispensed. However; once an electronic medical bracelet with the capacity to monitor biological data is affixed to the wrist, a reduction in manpower inevitably can serve the individual as well and perhaps better. Imagine one pill instead of a cocktail delivered by drone.
Another theme presented was the sociological effect of having less people serve us. Todd suggests that people will become more isolated with the deployment of technology. I wonder if robots in decades to come will be programmed to elicit emotion.
In one provocative slide, Todd depicted the working timeline of people’s lives since the dawn of formalized agricultural to the onset of industrialization and into the digital age. Finally there was a forecast of decades new transformed by automation. He forecasts that a “Universal Basic Income” will be required to offset the improved efficiency brought on by automation. He also predicts that structured volunteerism will emerge as government programs collapse under their weight with government finances stretched. Continuous learning will be evident in a fast changing work place and the career profile of someone in 2030 and beyond will be starkly different from the “good job” espoused by baby boomers.