It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but robots, cyborgs, self-driving vehicles, genetic engineering, and space exploration are all among the factors likely to impact on the work we do in the next 30 years.
Experts from industry and academia say technology will change the jobs we have and the way we do them.
Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are among the technological advances already being seen in the workplace.
They pose a threat to people working in mundane and monotonous low paid employment – but also those in sectors such as law, accountancy and banking, plus fishing and farming.
But while technology will threaten, or even do away with, some jobs, others will be created.
There are likely to be new posts across the board in tech industries, from App development to space exploration and bio-engineering.
And in sectors where the total number of jobs will decline, such as manufacturing, there will be new, high-pay, specialist roles created.
Meanwhile, service-related jobs that can’t be replicated by robots and automation will need more people than ever.
These are likely to include the care industry, construction and even financial advice.
But, one thing is certain: workers will need to be more highly skilled and flexible.
Technology is changing the world at a rapid pace
That will have implications for companies and education providers, who will need to work closely to ensure jobs are filled and existing staff are retrained and retained.
It could be that the Government even needs to subsidise some courses in the sectors most hit by a skills shortage.
However, alongside this bright shiny future, there could also be a continuing growth of low-paid, gig-economy work, with attendant implications for individuals, the economy and society.
And, while some of these changes are happening now, experts are agreed that the main march of the robots, and other technological quantum leaps, are still some years off.
Dr Simon Ashby, associate professor of finance at Plymouth Business School, said it’s already a challenging time for many sectors and this will be exacerbated.
“I can’t see a massive renaissance in fishing and farming, for example,” he said. “There will be large farms, more mechanisation, but it’s not going to be great for small farmers or fishermen. You will see some boutique stuff, like line caught fishing, but it’s a declining industry that has been in decline for some years and I can’t see how we are going to turn it around.”
On the other hand, he said, tech-based industries and service sector jobs will grow.
“The UK is very much a post-industrial economy, based on services and we have an aging population, so social care becomes a major part of that,” he said.
Dr Simon Ashby, associate professor of finance at Plymouth Business School
“We have small businesses, entrepreneurial, linked to the internet, using social medial, so possibly we will see that grow.
“But our economy is about more than that. We punch above our weight in terms of innovation, science, the internet and manufacturing.
“Then there is space exploration. The UK has a great history in building satellites and components. Newquay has been picked to be a space port.
“High-tech science will continue to grow and so will the IT and digital sector, Apps and things to make our lives easier, the internet of things, electric and autonomous vehicles, cars connected to the internet, routing themselves, even finding a space to park in.
“Heavy industry will continue to decline, but it will be more positive for alternative energy, solar and wind, that will be a continuing growth area.”
However, he warned of an “increasingly split workforce”, with businesses willing to invest in the brightest and most talented.
“The future is bright for those with higher skills and education,” he said. “But it will be more difficult for people who have not got that.
“The gig economy will be more insecure. We are seeing wages being pushed down in these sectors and I think that is likely to continue.
“So it’s a brighter picture for some, but not for others.
“That means it will be important for people to get good training, not just university but higher apprentices.
“Those people that are investing time and effort will have relatively secure jobs.
“Another problem is we don’t have enough young people in this country,” he added. “We have an aging population. People will continue working longer, but they can only work so long.
“We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of young people to do that work. It’s a problem we will have to look at.
“And businesses are increasingly mobile. If they can’t get a work force here they will move to another country where they can get labour. That will be a key issue for Government.
“The idea of cutting net migration to the tens of thousands, there are not many economists that would say that wouldn’t have a negative impact on the economy.
“And should we offer free university places for courses like health care, science and engineering?”
Mark Skilton, professor of practice at Warwick Business School and an expert in business technology who has advised Government, is convinced automation will change the workplace and threaten workers in retail, banking and insurance jobs in the next decade, and impact low-skilled and management jobs too.
But, again, there will be winners and losers.
“The jobs that go will include banking and insurance admin jobs, for instance, but it will create portfolio services jobs, where they are offering other services. That is happening already, a blurring of the role of advisor,” he said.
“So low end jobs in the service market will disappear but there will be more advisory jobs and more skilled jobs.
“Also, there will be more health sector jobs that are community based.
“And there is lot of demand for scientists to do automation and programming, the UK economy, particularly in places like London and Cambridge, is good at that.
Mark Skilton, professor of practice at Warwick Business School
“My own area is education, so online training, blending online to classroom time, will increase. In five to 10 years we will shift to a blended level, that’s already happening.
“We will also see a lot of personal wearables and smart homes, and more lifestyle coaches.
“Farming is automated already, but it will be increasing yield and productivity.
“But when I asked a room of 60 millennials if they think they will lose their jobs to automation they said no.
“They think smart Apps, which will talk in different languages in real time, will assist with jobs and we will be smarter and more productive as a result.
“And while the legal profession’s back office will disappear, replaced by algorithms and robots, you won’t get them making ethical judgements. Machine knowledge is not that smart. Going into the dock and seeing a robot is a way off yet.
“What we call ‘world knowledge’ is still a long way off.”
He said there will be more automation with robotics in surgery, but again, a few years away yet.
“In the next 30 years there will be complete automation of routine medical procedures. But that’s still 20 to 30 years away,” he said.
And while Prof Skilton believes self-driving cars are on their way, he think’s Ford’s a target for 2025 is a tad early.
But he said: “A lot of local travel with trains and lorries will be automated in the next 10 years.
And large scale 3D printing is about 10 years away.”
But he feels it is likely some human interaction with the robots will be needed in certain scenarios.
“A lot of jobs will be changed by the tools, it will be about being smarter more Apps helping with your job,” he said. “Robots do not have our experience to do it yet but it’s a long term goal with cyborgs and androids.”
“So don’t pack your bags yet, a lot of true automation is 10 years away, and cerebral thinking is 20 years away at least, computers don’t yet have that intelligence.
“There are questions around the future of data management and making decisions and ethics.
So there will be new jobs in cyber security, nano- and bio-tech
“The new jobs in the fourth industrial revolution will be about nano technology and bio engineering, there are new skills being created.”
Source: Derby Telegraph