Tech Disruption Could Lead to a Scary and Stressful New World
Call it the nightmare scenario. Out of nowhere, disruption knocks out technology. How would we manage in a world where all of society stands silent?
James L Katzaman
Future of work might need knowing a very different kind of skills
Call it the nightmare scenario. Out of nowhere, disruption knocks out technology. How would we manage?
The short answer is, not well.
Aside from television and other communications getting short-circuited, think of a world where ATMs and cash registers fail, and power grids stand silent.
“If we experienced some type of tech disruption, we would be plunged into some kind of dystopian world,” said Ivana Taylor. “The small difficulty of the pandemic has shown us that we don’t deal well with stress.
“I honestly think that we are not prepared to go back to how things were before tech,” she said. “We’ve become so dependent.”
Having to survive without technology would certainly overwhelm Taylor, whose DIYMarketers lives by its slogan, “committed to helping small business owners get out of overwhelm.”
Likewise, marketing, strategy and business consultant Iva Ignjatovic shudders at the disappearance of modern conveniences.
“That’s a scary idea — and quite realistic,” she said. “I don’t see it as a disruption. It’s more a cyber threat and collapse of the tech system for which we are utterly unprepared.
“We weren’t prepared for the pandemic, although there were many indications that it was just a matter of time,” Ignjatovic said. “We know how vulnerable tech systems are. I’m not convinced we are prepared even now.”
Taylor, Ignjatovic and award-winning blogger, speaker, podcaster and research geek Jake Pryszlak backed off such immediate dire prospects. Instead, they looked at how people can put themselves in the best position for whatever the future has in store.
Hybrid Soft Skills
As the world inevitably changes, certain skills will emerge in high demand for the future of work. One of them might be expertise in artificial intelligence.
“While the hard skills will always be needed, the future of work will need the softer skills more and more due to hybrid and remote working,” Pryszlak said. “That includes communication and leadership skills.”
Less mentioned is mastering the loneliness of working from home.
“I can tell you personally it can be a lot more lonely, especially if your partner isn’t working from home, too,” Pryszlak said. “You have to find strategies to stay motivated as well as ‘switching off’ when necessary.”
Taylor believes the skills of tomorrow will require the blending of two extremes: communication and technical skills.
Women might already have an unexpected remote-work advantage. GitLab has found that worldwide, although women only make up about 38 percent of the workforce, in remote work they are the majority at 58 percent.
Remote or elsewhere, Ignjatovic contends that future workers should be well versed in digital literacy and cognitive flexibility.
In years past, college degrees were greatly treasured. However, it has also been true that many people have spent careers in fields unrelated to their diplomas.
“I don’t think degrees are as important,” Pryszlak said. “It’s all about the life experiences you have been part of.
“The good and bad experiences can help shape who you are as a person but also as a colleague,” he said. “We are seeing more and more individuals excelling who have not been to college.”
Away From the Classroom
Taylor was even more adamant about a degree being a necessity.
“Not at all,” she said. “We are evolving to the point where most skills to do ‘work’ are really that: skills. Most ‘tech’ skills — doing skills — can be learned out of school.”
Ignjatovic said the worth of a degree “really depends on what career one wants to pursue, but it’s not necessary.”
Tomorrow’s education will be broader as well as higher.
“We will find that higher education won’t just be for the wealthy or young individuals, but will become more inclusive of society,” Pryszlak said. “We will also see a variety of courses available to individuals, especially as work life has changed since the pandemic.
“This is where the academic world is very different to life world,” he said. “Academics need to communicate with the private sector — and other sectors for that matter — to understand what is happening in the outside world rather than the academic bubble.”
Taylor’s vision is more back from the future.
“I’d like to see college evolve to what it used to be,” she said. “That’s a place of higher thinking and more advanced problem solving rather than an expensive tech school preparing for jobs.”
Those jobs could change radically. The World Economic Forum forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans, compared to 71 percent being performed by humans today.
“One reason why people no longer need higher education for certain jobs is because education is no longer advanced,” Ignjatovic said. “That can be limiting. I’d like to see that change.”
In Managers’ Hands
As long as the 40-hour week holds sway, some version of 9-to-5 work will survive.
“It all depends on your manager and company you work for,” Pryszlak said. “I don’t think any job should be 9-to-5. It should be based on productivity rather than time.”
Taylor believes the tide has changed.
“Traditional hours have already gone by the wayside,” she said. “I would like to see more of an always open environment, but with ‘job sharing’ so more people are working fewer hours.”
One way to reduce work hours is to cut back on wasteful meetings or at least make them more effective.
“Nine-to-5 jobs still exist, but in my line of work I never had that experience,” Ignjatovic said. “I’ve been working long hours all my life. With job distribution and automation, that could change.”
Artificial intelligence and robots are already affecting the workplace.
“At this point, artificial intelligence is best at processing complex data, scheduling, analyzing and so on,” Taylor said. “That leaves humans to do more thinking work. It’s why college has to evolve to more thinking, communicating and solving.”
Indeed, McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that demand for higher cognitive skills — such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making and complex information processing — will grow through 2030.
“New skills will emerge,” Ignjatovic said. “The job landscape will change. What worries me is that AI is mainly unregulated and uncontrolled already.
“If your business is bigger, make sure you remind your boss of yourself and the work you do,” she said. “It’s a must. People who do a great job are usually ignored and skipped when it comes to praise and promotion.”
Value of Connections
To remain employable and competitive, make and maintain daily connections. That helps those with influence know about you, which can come in handy whenever you might need their help in the job market.
“My plan has always been to straddle tech and communication skills,” Taylor said. “I’m going to stick with that.”
To help employment skills, DIYMarketers has posted an article, “Aweber vs Mailchimp vs GetResponse: A Comparison.”
“Regarding digital literacy and cognitive flexibility, both need to be constantly upgraded,” Ignjatovic said. “Part of that is to stay on top of AI, non-fungible tokens, cryptocurrency and Internet of Things.”
Past reports of technology killing jobs were erroneous. If anything, automation has freed people to do more meaningful, less repetitive work.
“Work is already being replaced by tech,” Taylor said. “I do worry that tech disruption or terrorism is very easy to do, and we will collapse without technology. Then again, when you see automation that’s available, I see too many people just spamming. We have a lot to learn.”
Meanwhile, those in the workplace familiar with tech do not rest easy. An OpenVPN survey reveals that 54 percent of information technology workers believe that employees who work remotely pose a greater cybersecurity risk than those who work on site.
“Inevitable — but not on a scale that people usually imagine — having more tech or robots doing certain jobs will actually create new job positions for people,” Ignjatovic said.
Controlling the Robots
Even if robots took over most jobs within the next 20 to 50 years, people could still maintain a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their families.
“We would have to stop valuing work and start valuing something completely different,” Taylor said. “I’d love to see us evolve to the point where we valued other skills.
“Automation is there to help and not replace,” she said. “We’ve become accustomed to some things being automated. Then we expect many others to be more human.”
To that end, having the right app will fill your brand’s greatest needs.
“We would do something else,” Ignjatovic said. “It’s a distant future that I have a difficult time to even imagine. There are too many variables and unknowns.
“In any event, we should have equal pay for one, and extinction of double and triple standards,” she said.
Taylor yearns for a future of work that lets its hair down.
“I’d like to see us evolve beyond the strict hierarchy,” she said. “We are kind of there with the gig economy, but a lot of intellectual talent is lost because of how work is structured.”
About The Author
James L Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.