At this week’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the dominant theme is the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which will supposedly have a seismic effect on jobs and businesses in every industry and geographical region.
If you believe the prognosis of a report released in conjunction with the Forum, the combination of machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, genetics, and other cutting-edge technologies will lead to the loss of 5.1 million jobs by 2020.
“Processing power and big data will have an especially strong impact on Information and Communication Technology, Financial Services and Professional Services,” read the release accompanying the report.
Automation, analytics, and robotics can have a profound effect on jobs that heavily leverage technology. Just look at manufacturing, which has wrestled with rising unemployment and factory shutdowns as more processes become automated (and more companies opt to take their manufacturing operations overseas). Datacenter administrators have also found themselves squeezed professionally by software automation. And self-driving cars, in theory, could put everyone from delivery people to cab drivers out of business.
That being said, some jobs are more immune to advances in hardware and software than others. For example, professions that require a lot of emotional intelligence—think counselors, some kinds of consultants, and, ideally, managers—are likely safe from automation for quite some time. But for those jobs in the proverbial crosshairs, the next decade might see a lot of career-changing—not to mention a lot of retraining.