What are the technologies of the future?

In my last post I talked about how technology is shaping the workforce. There are a number of technologies driving this change and the types of change we’re seeing are astonishing.

In this post I want to highlight some of the technologies that are continually coming up in conversations and are being used by leading companies. These technologies may be the driving force behind the changes we see in the next 10 years.

Drones

When I saw the first drone several years ago it looked like a toy and a bit of a waste of time – almost like an expensive remote controlled car. Now, I see the applications for drone technology and they’ve gone so far beyond that.

Drones are being used in rural areas of Australia to find livestock. They’re also being used in remote areas in Papua New Guinea by mining companies to work out to where to put the next mine site in. In Africa drones are helping to get medicines to remote villages.

When you think about jobs of the future, some of the obvious ones are around drones. Flying drones is now a job type and there’ll be people that earn a living doing that for many different purposes. A few years ago a European Commission report forecast that by 2022 the market for piloted drones will be worth 4bn Euros.

Artificial Intelligence

Every week I read another story about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it’s changing things. For example, AI is now better than the world’s leading experts at detecting skin cancer cells.

With the level of AI currently available, it’s believed that AI will not take roles but will become part of people’s jobs. Research by McKinsey Global Institute found that less than 5% of jobs could be automated, but 60% could have at least a third of their workload automated.

“…in a world where the diagnosis of many health issues could be effectively automated, an emergency room could combine triage and diagnosis and leave doctors to focus on the most acute or unusual cases while improving accuracy for the most common issues,” says McKinsey.

Looking ahead, there’s basically three stages of AI development. The first phase is what we have already, machines that can do specific tasks better than a human and are largely assisting in tasks. The second phase is when AI can do anything that a human can do. The third phase, and the most daunting, is where AI can do anything better than a human. Contemporary thinking is that anybody currently under the age of 35 will live long enough to see stage three.

Driverless transport

Rio Tinto has driverless trains in Western Australia delivering iron ore now. People are happy with it because they’re going through the middle of the desert and nobody is going to get hurt. As this proves successful we’ll see the technology come closer to home. We’re not going to need cab drivers, truck drivers or lorry drivers in 10 years-time due to driverless transport technology. The technology is there, what we’re waiting for now is for people to become comfortable with the concept.

There was an interesting article in the Atlantic last year that assessed what the future of driverless technology could look like. It talked about a world where real estate agents would pay to have cars drive slowly past properties for sale and McDonald’s would offer free Uber rides as long as you’re will to spend 15 minutes in a store on your way.

What does the future hold?

On the current trajectory, no one really know where we’re going to go with all this technology. For example there are other areas like space technology. They’re already talking, quite seriously, about mining asteroids for precious metals. If you can get hold of an asteroid and dig a load of platinum of it, eventually it becomes commercially worth it. I don’t know whether it will ever happen, but it shows that there is a new space race happening that could lead us beyond our wildest imagination.

On an individual level, the focus will be on using the technology to not only keep your job but do it better. Having a specialisation or specific expertise will help safeguard the jobs of the future, essentially creating a form of rare intellectual property. Also acknowledging there are new ways of working. You only need to look at the rise of companies like Upwork and freelancer.com to see that casual project based work is going to become more prevalent.

In my next article I’ll talk about some of the skills and values that will help to ensure the next generation is ready for the job market.