Will ‘Smart Machines’ Decimate Tech Jobs?

Market pressures to embrace digitization will transform an array of industries – and IT staffs as well, according to a recent Gartner forecast.

RobotA digital workforce, comprised of robots and automated machines, has the potential to “significantly devalue and/or displace millions of humans in the workforce,” says Kenneth Brant, Research Director at the firm.

He noted that a multifaceted marketplace for engineering a “digital workforce” already exists. This marketplace includes intelligent agents, virtual reality assistants, expert systems and embedded software to make traditional machines “smart” in a specialized ways. Additionally, there’s a new generation of low-cost and easy-to-train robots and automated machines that were built for specific purposes.

Similarly, a Forrester report foresees an increase of “smart computing” using sensors, networks and analytics software to manage physical assets and infrastructure over the Internet in real time.

Workforce Transformation

While 60 percent of CEOs believe that the emergence of smart machines capable of absorbing millions of middle-class jobs within 15 years is a “futurist fantasy,” Gartner foresees deep business impact in the next seven years, with “machine-driven job elimination overwhelming the market’s ability to create valuable new ones” in the coming decades.

Machines are evolving from automating basic tasks to becoming advanced self-learning systems, leading Gartner to predict the next wave of job losses will be among highly valued specialists.

That could put a dent into the line of thinking that if robots are to proliferate, somebody has to build them. Would it be possible for robots to eventually program themselves?

Gartner says the digital future will require new approaches to information delivery, communication and transactions, which will require business leaders and CIOs to carefully assess their staffing needs.

Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group, however, pointed out to CIO.com that for every study predicting lost jobs, another extols the new opportunities – and there will continue to be new opportunities as we become a more technology — and data — dependent economy.

5 Responses to “Will ‘Smart Machines’ Decimate Tech Jobs?”

  1. Once the millions of middle-class jobs have been absorbed by the smart machines, the companies that own the smart machines that create the goods and services will probably start to experience a crippling loss of demand. After all, if you’re out of work how many “machine-made” goods and services can you really afford?

  2. John Polucci

    D-a-a-a-h. Who writes the artificial intelligence software and does the engineering for these “Smart Machines”? The “Smart machines” still need to be assembled and maintained. The societal infrastructure(with its maintenance of roads, bridges, dams, power lines, airports, schools,banks, ) with all its employees needs to be in place. Are we saying that that the machines and the necessary infrastructure will never need any maintenance? This sounds like one of those bad science fiction movies on at 3 AM in the morning.

  3. I can’t see this happening at all due to the fact that if millions of jobs are lost this will cripple the economy, Robots taking over human work completing doesn’t help anyone it hurts all even the big time rich!

  4. The movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day comes to mind.

    The cyborg who once tried to kill Sarah Connor is dead, and another T-101 must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from an even more powerful and advanced Terminator, the T-1000.

  5. David Evans

    “In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.”

    It’s true, we’ll be obsolete one day. That was the promise of computing from the get-go, anyways, wasn’t it? To solve our every need through the genius of engineering. The man above, approached this problem over a century and a half ago by declaring that employment should be both a right and an obligation, rather than a privilege. The experiment he launched, resulted in a failure – and a terrible one at that, but an experiment in Social Darwinism today would yield far worse results.

    A re-evaluation of the institution of work is critical to the future of our world. The invisible hand is not going to save us. We created this world, we must learn to live with the responsibilities therein. I can think of no other remedy but the reduction of working hours and an investment in innovation to solve this problem. It is irresponsible to create a society of people working 60 hour weeks while others work zero hours to their own detriment.

    And if the cost of production should ever reach zero for an industry, then the cost of acquiring the items should be likewise. Who should complain? You don’t put in any work, you gain a reward all the same? When supply becomes abundantly greater than the demand for zero cost, then money becomes obsolete. Let it slowly die and rejoice in a new era without want. Focus on being a better human being and improving the talents that were granted to you.

    We have nothing to fear if we act wisely and in our collective best interest. This should be the easiest decision mankind has ever made.