The Fourth Industrial Revolution – digitalisation, robotisation, artificial intelligence, internet of things and 3D printing – is radically changing the way in which we work. Most of the research claims that by 2030 approximately half of our current jobs will not exist anymore.
Bus drivers, market analysts, x-ray assistants, cashiers and many others will find their jobs replaced by technology in the future. But this is nothing new – the difference is this time it’s happening faster than ever before.
Much has been written and said about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but few people have gone into detail about what our future work might look like. That is why I was excited to discuss the issue with professor Kristiina Mäkelä of Aalto University. Our discussion was based on one of her many papers and presentations on the subject.
Mäkelä makes three points about the future of work. The first is that our good old “nine to five” world will soon cease to exist. As technology advances, the pace of life gets faster and the lines between work and free time become more blurred.
The second point is that the traditional symbiosis between work and the office is becoming decoupled. Again, technology allows you to be much more flexible about your working location. Global networks emerge, and international talent is a sought-after commodity.
Her third thesis is that future careers will be much patchier than they are today. Self-employment comes to the fore. Less hierarchy, more networks. Our careers become a portfolio of gigs.
I think professor Mäkelä is spot-on. Her three points have many ramifications for all of us, not least for those who are about to enter the labour market. The days of permanent job stability are over. As a consequence, we will likely end up having multiple careers, and not necessarily in the same field.
Consequently, our understanding of education will change. Life-long learning is already on the agenda for many, and it will be even more so in the future. We have to keep re-educating ourselves to be able to stay in the game. A university degree has less value than what it used to hold.
Change is often scary. It means that we have to adapt to or influence new circumstances. One of the less scary elements of the future of work is that we end up having more free time, as technologies are often more efficient than humans.
Another consequence is that we will become more dependent on technology than the state. I consider this to be a good thing. And you never know, perhaps one day the technological developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to algorithms that make better decisions than politicians. That means that I might have to get a new job!
Alexander Stubb, former prime minister of Finland, has been writing a column for Blue Wings since 2005.
This article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (March 2017).