The world is on a ‘crash course’ as people’s hopes collide with a future in which millions of jobs are automated, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently said.
“The one thing you know for sure that you’ll need in whatever the economy looks like in the future is people who can learn,” he told the BBC. “We want to create a sense of urgency to invest in people that we think is necessary given the way … the global economy is changing.”
Indeed, the same can be said about the current job market landscape in Malaysia. The Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) has identified finance, retail and manufacturing as the sectors most susceptible to job loss due to automation systems. In 2015, 44,000 workers lost their jobs while 57,000 workers found themselves jobless between January 2016 and June 2017.
According to the latest research by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than five million jobs will be replaced by machines between 2015 and 2020.
Years of dark dystopian fiction from films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Ex Machina and even Avengers: Age of Ultron have instilled in us a real fear of Artificial Intelligence (A.I). We have allowed our anxiety to colour our judgements on A.I rather than seeing it for what it truly is, the latest wave of transformation for business.
A strong pattern through time has proven that while repetitive and routine tasks are increasingly performed by machines, job creation has also emerged in technology and creative occupations, business and professional services, and caring professions. These are jobs that require higher manual dexterity and cognitive skills or in simpler terms, the human touch in what represents a shift from brawn to brains.
Just as the aforementioned films painted a dire picture for man versus machine, the recent film Hidden Figures based on real-life events portrays the human spirit at its best. The main women featured in the film perceived the innovative technology as opportunities instead of threats and thus adapted by developing a higher skill set.
Given this disruptive age we are living in, we too can adapt and safeguard our career amidst mass automation. How? Through data science. Advancements in technology are available now to aid in decision-making as Big Data becomes the new digital domain. Today, all big companies across sectors are focusing their attention on data science and analytics, triggering major searches for data professionals.
Data professionals who are advancing in their field need not fear unemployment. They are typically programmers, mathematicians, and thought leaders all wrapped up in one, so no matter the industry, there will always be jobs looking for data professionals rather than vice-versa. More importantly, humans will still be needed to understand and collaborate with other humans for data science projects to be successful. This collaboration is key to transforming data into actionable data for decision-making.
We must keep pace with the accelerating rate of change and invest in themselves or risk becoming a job loss statistic. They can achieve job security by reskill or upskilling through Data Star, a program to fast track the development of data professionals that meet the needs of the industry. By harnessing the power of machine learning and other technologies, data professionals can look forward to a fruitful career in the age of analytics.