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Why RPA (and other emerging technologies) will create jobs

A lot has been written and will continue to be written about how robots will take jobs from us poor humans, my last blog "Will your job be taken by a robot?" asked that question. This time, I want to cover the reasons to be positive.

Firstly, this is not a new cause for concern and if we look back at history, we can take comfort in the knowing that when humans face a fundamental shift in the way we do things, new opportunities emerge. I am thinking about the industrial revolution that changed the way we worked and lived - humanity adapted and found new ways to earn a living.

In post war Japan they widely adopted W. Edward Deming's approach to continuous improvement, often used as a way of reducing manpower. The result? Japan became the second biggest economy in the world. Quality improvement didn't decrease jobs in Japan, it increased jobs.

Now thinking about RPA and AI and how this can be used with Deming's philosophies, these technologies can improve and standardise decision making based on logic, rather than the fear of missing objectives, bonuses or losing one's job. The data available means companies that use technologies will have more knowledge, higher quality and competitive advantage, which means more demand for their products, sales, customer service, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Increased demand equals more jobs.

Employment also has historically been like a balloon. When one industry is contracting, another emerges and expands. Digitising the physical world to better understand it and create value is one of those expansion areas. Once the initial work of capturing the data from these digitisation efforts is complete and automated, the next phase is understanding how to improve, manage and control systems as a result of the data. The act of improving or adjusting systems based on the new data means even more work and jobs.

Although some of the jobs we currently do may be taken by robots, humanity can again adapt and take advantage of the new opportunities this technology revolution is bringing. We can be positive, because we have done it before.


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