As automation and artificial intelligence technologies improve, many people worry about the future of work. Many questions resound in the hearts of both employees and employers:
- Would human workers be required in the foreseeable future?
- How would human workers provide for their families?
- What does the future hold for human workers?
- What impact would this have on the society?
Many economists say there is no need to worry. They point to how past major transformations in work tasks and labour markets (specifically the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries) didn’t lead to major social upheaval or widespread suffering. These economists say that when technology destroys jobs, people find other jobs.
Lessons from Industrial Revolution
At the outset of the revolution the working class who made up about 80% of the population had little or no bargaining power with their new employers. Since population was increasing in Great Britain at the same time that landowners were enclosing common village lands, people from the countryside flocked to the towns and the new factories to get work. This resulted in a very high unemployment rate for workers in the first phases of the Industrial Revolution. Henry Mayhew studied the work environment in 1823, and he articulated his observation about London- “there is barely sufficient work for the regular employment of half of our labourers, so that only 1,500,000 are fully and constantly employed, while 1,500,000 more are employed only half their time, and the remaining 1,500,000 wholly unemployed” (Thompson 250).
As a result, the new factory owners could set the terms of work because there were far more unskilled labourers, who had few skills and would take any job, than there were jobs for them Desperate for work, the migrants to the new industrial towns had no bargaining power to demand higher wages, fairer work hours, or better working conditions.
Life in the factory was most challenging for the first generation of industrial workers who still remembered the slower and more flexible pace of country life.
One of the defining and most lasting features of the Industrial Revolution was the rise of cities. In pre-industrial society, over 80% of people lived in rural areas. As migrants moved from the countryside, small towns became large cities. By 1850, for the first time in world history, more people in a country—Great Britain—lived in cities than in rural areas. As other countries in Europe and North America industrialized, they too continued along this path of urbanization. By 1920, a majority of Americans lived in cities.
Lessons from the Industrial Revolution:
- Workers were not really prepared for the change
- The first sixty years into the revolution was tough for workers
- Explosive change with work environment
- Societal change e.g. massive rural-urban relocation etc.
We believe research for Africa, solving Africa's grand challenges, has to be done on the ground in Africa and this is why we set up and made this investment. People ask us: 'Can you do African research from New York?' Yes you can. It is possible, you can do research from anywhere. But you will miss the mark... In order to capture value, and deliver innovation that leads to commercially viable products that impact people's lives, we have to be here, in the local ecosystem."- Dr Uyi Stewart
Predictions for the AI Revolution
- AI will impact employers before it impacts employment
- AI will come down to earth—and get to work
- AI will help answer the big question about data
- Functional specialists, not techies, will decide the AI talent race
- Cyberattacks will be more powerful because of AI—but so will cyber defense
- Opening AI’s black box will become a priority
- Nations will spar over AI
- Pressure for responsible AI won’t be on tech companies alone
Is Africa Prepared?
- Africa has steadily increased her ICT import to total import ratio year on year
- Africa still imports over 90% of hardware technology requirements
- Africa still imports over 95% of software technology requirements
Africa should not be caught up in the unpreparedness web, the cost in the Industrial Revolution Age was not a good one.
- Prepare for the coming AI (Artificial Intelligence ) revolution
- It is the information age already, get involved and plan ahead
- Engage Tech, and even more; reduce cost, think efficiency and effectiveness
- Build capacity for efficiency
- Understand your process, AI thrives on clear instructions and lots of data
- Start hiring AI today. Learn more at the HRTECH West Africa Conference 2018 (Register on www.godp.co.uk/hrtech2018)
This is just a glimpse into all the issues we’ll discuss at the HRTECH West Africa Conference in Lagos, Nigeria on November 16, 2018. I invite you to join in the conversation, kindly register on www.godp.co.uk/hrtech2018
References – 2018 AI Prediction for 2018 , www.unctad.org