‘And the geeks shall inherit the earth!’ Oh, they already have, but the creatives are next in line!
Our Executive Director, Jamie Smith outlines the future of creative employment and the battle with the machines!
We are staring at Artificial Intelligence (A.I) running the world. This is not just some wild idea from the imagination of Tom Canton (that sic-fi-obsessed kid in my school) who, incidentally, later amassed a small fortune making apps in his bedroom. This is not virtual reality, it’s reality reality. We all know a ‘Tom Canton’, I guarantee it. The more I look at this issue the more I see it appearing; a quick Google search will show you discussions from academics, the mass media and everyone in between. The machines are coming!
New IoT (Internet of Things) devices are constantly emerging and changing your life for the better. Your washing machine and your boiler can be connected to the internet, they can talk to each other, they can use water and energy at the right time. All this saves you money, resources and time.
Surely the planet is benefitting, too? This is not quite full A.I but it’s close. The next step, the EIoT (Enterprise Internet of Things) is already underway and it is, most certainly, coming after your job! Japan said last week that the rise of the machines will see 7.35 million people lose their jobs by 2030. That's 10% of the workforce in less than 15 years. Here in the UK, 60% of people are realistic about this future, believing ‘robots will mean fewer jobs in the next decade’ (British Science Association). So, what does this mean for all of us?
The reality is that low-wage jobs are always going to be there to do the ‘things’ we can't get the ‘things’ to do, and there are a few things the machines will struggle with! But if your imagination stretches a bit, and you really think about it, what can't they do and where does that leave you?
In a discussion this week, an unnamed government minister made an interesting point: ‘There’s always going to be the requirement for the human touch. In care and personal services, for example.’
Can we hand some of the more ‘human’ roles in care over to the machines? Medicine? Easy. Breaking bad news? Not ideal but it could be done. Personal care? Probably some of it…The more I think about it, the jobs most difficult for machines involve looking after humans (or hurting them), so perhaps this minister has a point.
But things are already changing. Humans will always be involved, perhaps just fewer of them, and that’s really what we are looking at. A reduction in the requirement of people and the subsequent reduction in employment opportunities: hospital operations carried out remotely with less staff, driverless cars, fleet vehicles, deliveries, there’s even automated shipping on the cards. Some of this is already here and it takes little imagination to see there’s more coming. So where does that leave the vast majority of employed people?
Well, I think there is good news if we can adapt and respond. Imagination is what's left. In every industry or sector, there will always be a market for creatives: the people with the ideas. They are people, not machines (and ‘thinking’ machines are a lot longer away).
In the past, the term ‘creative’ referred to someone working in the ‘creative industries’, traditionally the media, music, art, design etc. This has changed. In fact, if you want to keep your job in the next 20 years, or want your kids to halt the rise of machines, they’ve got to be creative. You’ve got to be creative. It’s no longer just about knowing your industry or learning your craft, it’s now about what you can do differently and how you can deliver a creative approach.
In recent years, we have seen the education system in the UK, and beyond, react very positively to the emergence of new technology. The classrooms have been buzzing with kids coding software, developing apps, even designing games. It’s boom-time for tech. The ‘geeks’, as they were affectionately known back in my high-school days, are now running the show. To be fair, this group are not just technically gifted, they are pretty creative too, however, there is a definite gap out there which will widen if we don’t catch on. Creativity has long been thought of as something that can’t be taught…I think that’s the biggest mistake. Creativity can be nurtured, supported, encouraged and rewarded. This is the challenge facing all of us, from our politicians and educationalists to our parents and kids.
We need to build creative thinking: our teachers need to be creatives. You will all remember those teachers who brought engaging and inspiring new ideas to their lessons. You will also remember those teachers who read from the textbook day after day. We have to do more and we need to start in the classrooms. From here, creativity must be taken into the world of ‘employability’, an essential skill for everyone, agreed? The economic challenge this presents to the ever-changing workforce is one of ‘biblical proportions’ (Ghostbusters). To those of you unemployed already, or those seeking to move on in your careers, the creativity time-bomb is ticking. This could be bigger than the millennium bug!
The next challenge is to you, the reader. You are already there, working in your chosen profession, an expert, highly skilled and essential to your industry. The way I see it, you have about 2-3 years to bring your creative skills out in every aspect of your day. If you miss this window, you may find yourself on the other end of the line. Don’t kid yourself, the machines aren’t coming…they’re already here.