WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

THE ROBOTS ARE HERE: TO FREE UP OUR TIME (SEASON FIVE)

As we conclude our post on the future of work today, we take a look at two of the major professions that might not be radically taken away by automation, but will be transformed; teaching and entertainment.

Thanks to automation, the role of teachers will shift from transmitting knowledge to cultivating soft skills.

Hypothetically, if there’s one thing you’ve learned from these series so far, it’s that automation is going to shake up many industries in the years ahead. Some new jobs will be created, but many others will be eliminated, and the few jobs that survive will be radically transformed.

With so much change going on in the global economy, people will have to learn how to adapt – updating their skills for their evolving jobs or retraining for brand new careers or even industries, such as virtual reality programming (more on that in our subsequent post). And that means education is going to be more important than ever before.

However, education itself is going to be reshaped by automation as well. Yes, we’re talking about robot teachers. There’s already one in the market: Professor Einstein – a small, humanoid robot that bears a striking resemblance to the famous physicist after which it’s named. What does it do? Well, if you ask him, Professor Einstein will tell you in his own words: “I can walk, talk, teach games, forecast weather, and answer all questions about science.”

Unfortunately, he can also lose his Wi-Fi connection, which caused him to malfunction when he was on television being interviewed by the author, much to the embarrassment of his creators. So teachers don’t need to worry about losing their jobs anytime soon.

But as robots like Professor Einstein improve, they will take over some of the main functions that teachers currently play in the education of students.

What are those functions? Well, think about what your teachers did for you when you were in school (the good teachers, at least). If you had a question, they tried their best to answer it. If you didn’t understand their initial answers, they’d try to reframe them – putting the information into a form you could grasp, whether by way of a clever analogy or a nifty diagram.

Well, imagine if Professor Einstein could do the same – only, unlike his human counterparts, he’d be available 24/7, and he’d never get tired of answering questions or coming up with new explanations.

This would allow human teachers to move away from their current focus on transmitting knowledge and concentrate more on cultivating so-called “softer skills,” such as curiosity, initiative, persistence, cooperativeness, flexibility, empathy, and ethical behavior.

Imagine you’re a present-day teacher and your students want to learn about astronomy. Well, you could talk to them about it, give them books, show them videos, provide them with a telescope or send them to Google, where they can probably learn much more about the subject than you know, thanks to Google’s search algorithms (another reason why your role as a knowledge-transmitter is already waning).

But imagine if you could blast off into outer space and take them on a cosmic field trip to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Well, you can’t do that for the foreseeable future, but soon you’ll be able to do the next best thing thanks to virtual reality, or VR.

The technology is evolving rapidly, and tons of investment money is pouring into the burgeoning industry. Google already has a VR device in the market, and Facebook bought the Oculus VR headset company for $2 billion in 2014. Investors are salivating at the economic prospects of VR. In a study by The Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, the financial giants declared that the VR headset would become “the one device to disrupt and rule the world of technology.”

In the same vein, immersive VR video games are on the horizon – and just in time, because, as you know by now, many people will be out of work, and they’ll need something to do. Here’s one possible future: millions of people will be unemployed and supported by a universal basic income. Meanwhile, the people who still have jobs will work much fewer hours, thanks to automation.

What will people do with all their newfound free time? They’ll probably spend most of it consuming various forms of entertainment and culture, such as music, television, video games, movies, and books.

That’s good news for musical artists, filmmakers, writers, and other creatives who work in the entertainment and culture industries. The entertainment and culture industries will become increasingly important as people have more free time due to automation. Already, those industries employ 29.5 million people around the world – more than the total workers in the United States, Europe, and Japanese automotive industries combined! The more people have free time, the more they’ll demand entertainment and culture – and the more the economy will need actors, directors, musicians, producers and so forth to keep people entertained and edified. 

Thus, though manual labor will largely become a thing of the past, entertainment and culture may well flourish!

And what’s more, socialism will take over capitalism. As seen around the world now and in America in particular, most millennials are beginning to give more attention to politicians with socialist agendas. With machines doing all the work, the world will need a system to distribute the benefits to its citizens. This, we will look at in future discourse. 

The key message in our discussions that spanned over five weeks is that over the next few decades, automation will likely replace many current workers in manufacturing, transportation, banking, the legal profession, and the service sector. Along the way, it will create some new jobs that will center around supporting the robots and other automated systems that replaced those workers. Automation will also eliminate some positions and job functions in medicine, journalism, and education, but it will also allow workers in those fields to do more interesting work. Finally, automation will expand people’s free time, which will increase the demand for artists and entertainers.

Olusola Bodunrin
Olusola Bodunrin is a social commentator with a passion for gathering facts on social issues. He is writer, businessman, blogger, and wardrobe consultant. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He anchors – ‘What You Should Know’ on SHEFFA. ‘What You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on general falsehood and myths.