4 Oct 2017

Great Ideas - Part 8: 'Find your niche'

From Great Ideas, 9:00 am on 4 October 2017

“If X = poop, do not clean,” might be the future of house cleaning. How else to stop your robot vacuum cleaner spreading the new puppy’s leavings all over the house?

Photo: Public Domain

In 2017 the media is full of stories about robots taking over our jobs, but how likely is that really? How will we make money in the future, and what might our jobs and workplaces look like?

And how will people whose jobs are replaced survive?

In this episode, Megan Whelan discusses the future of work with three knowledgeable people from AUT, Associate Professor Stephen Neville, Professor Jarrod Haar, Associate Professor Dave Parry.

Jarrod Haar says there’s less anxiety about robots taking people's jobs than we might otherwise think, with only about 10-15 percent of New Zealanders believing their job might be replaced.

He says jobs in the service sector will be among the first to go. “I’ll walk near McDonalds and it’ll [technology] say ‘actually, we’re in the 11:30-1:30 range that Jarrod eats', and then will say 'Jarrod are you ready to put your order in?’”

The store manager might be the only person actually working in a fast food restaurant, he says – and there will be an IT person who fixes the robots.

“We actually do need workers, and it’s about re-skilling, re-training, providing people with other opportunities for employment,” says Stephen Neville.

“If you look in terms of health, robots are already being used in residential aged care facilities – really successfully – but you still need that person-to-person contact.”

Where you go to work might change, though. Your office – by day – could become a bar by night. Or you could share a space.

“The idea of needing to go to the office in order to find out what other people are thinking and be able to collaborate, is really going to go,” says Dave Parry.

“I don’t think we will see offices as they are in the next 50 years, simply because they’ll be too expensive, and people will say ‘why do I have to come here when I can do the job equally well from my beach house?’”

There is no doubt we’re going to need people to work longer, says Stephen Neville – and that means accommodating a lot of different working styles. And having employers looking out for their employees.

 “Get passionate about things, and work at things you like to do and you know you’re good at,” says Dave Parry.

“Governments and society are going to hit this big issue with just simply the number people who are going to really be required.”

“The robots making our phones, they’re reducing the cost of labour, and yet the price of those products are going up,” says Jarrod Haar.

“So technology is being used from a capitalistic perspective to make more money, not to make our products cheaper for consumers.

“So a good employer should be thinking about the well-being of employing humans, and thinking that this is a societal good.”

New episodes of Great Ideas, recorded in collaboration with Auckland University of Technology, looks at the ideas and trends shaping the future.