Statistics Canada today released a rosy picture of the job market for the country with employment rising 1.2 per cent over a year ago and unemployment declining by 0.2 per cent to 6.9 per cent. Enjoy it while it lasts because the machines are coming and they’re coming after your job, according to a report from technology research firm Gartner Inc.
“In fact, even today, there is already a multifaceted marketplace for engineering a ‘digital workforce,’ backed by major players on both the supply and demand side,” said Kenneth Brant, research director at Gartner in a statement yesterday. “This marketplace comprises intelligent agents, virtual reality assistants, expert systems and embedded software to make traditional machines ‘smart’ in a very specialized way, plus a new generation of low-cost, easy-to-train robots and purpose build automated machines that could significantly devalue and/or displace millions of humans in the workforce.”
He said mass unemployment will not occur in the near future but the job destruction will happen at a faster pace, with machine-driven job elimination overwhelming the market’s ability to create valuable new one. Brant discussed Gartner’s growing concern about smart machines at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla.
According to Gartner’s 2013 CEO survey, 60 per cent of chief executive officers believe the emergence of smart machines capable of absorbing middle-class jobs within 15 years is just a “futurist fantasy.”
However, the research firm is predicting that within only seven year smart machines will have a deep business impact. Gartner said smart machines will dramatically increase through 2020.
“Most business and though leaders underestimate the potential of smart machines to take over millions of middle-class jobs in the coming future,” said Brant.
Machines are evolving from automating basic tasks to becoming “advanced self-learning systems” which in many specialized professions are “as capable as human brains,” the Gartner report said. The next wave of job losses will likely occur among highly valued specialist during the next decade.
Improvements in the development of smart machines, weak revenue growths and the global economic slump are bringing about these changes.
The impact will be worse, according to the research firm, for business that fail to develop programs and policies for a digital workforce by 2015 and this does not bold well for complacent CIOs.
“Career CIOs who do not begin to champion digital workforce initiatives with their peers in the C-suite by 2015 will be cut short by 2023,” said Gartner.
Brant said IT cost typically about four per cent of annual revenues while labour costs that can be “rationalized by smart machines” are as high as 40 per cent of revenues in some industries.
“The supply side of the market – including IBM, GE, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon – is placing large bets on the success of smart machines, while the demand side includes high-profile movers that will trigger an ‘arms race’ for acquiring and/or developing smart machines.”
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